Boris Johnson to plough £5bn into restoring regional bus routes after years of austerity cuts

Labour says investment is ‘nowhere near enough to make the difference transport users need’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 10 February 2020 23:40 GMT
Boris Johnson gives 'green signal' to HS2 project

Boris Johnson is to unveil a £5bn, five-year package for bus services and cycle lanes in England, as the government attempts to reverse some of the damage of austerity cuts to public transport.

It comes as the prime minister is expected to give the green light to the contentious high-speed rail project HS2 during a meeting of the cabinet in Downing Street on Tuesday. A BBC report late on Monday said the project would be given the full go-ahead.

Despite more individuals using buses than any other mode of public transport, funding for those services has dramatically fallen over the last decade with over 3,000 routes altered, reduced or withdrawn.

According to a report from the Campaign for Better Transport, local authority spending on bus services has been cut by £162m, or 43 per cent, in real terms in comparison to 2009-10.

The organisation added that of the 88 local transport authorities in England – excluding London – 82 had reduced their provisions in real terms over the last 10 years.

In a statement to parliament on Tuesday, the prime minister will say the £5bn fund will focus on priorities such as higher frequency services during the evenings and on weekends, and “more affordable, simpler fares”.

The PM will also pledge to introduce over 250 miles of new, separated cycle routes across England as part of the package.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said details of the five-year funding package would be announced in the National Bus Strategy – due to be published later in 2020.

Mr Johnson said: “Local transport connections have a truly transformative role in levelling up infrastructure across the country.

“Our daily journeys from work or leisure are about so much more than getting from A to B – they are they key to accessing skilled jobs and opportunities, boosting businesses and unlocking economic growth for tows, cities and regions across this country.”

But Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said: “After years of underinvestment and cuts, this unambitious announcement is nowhere enough to make the difference that transport users, our economy or our environment need.”

He added: “The Conservatives are refusing to reverse their colossal £645m a year cuts to bus budgets, which has caused thousands of routes to be axed and fares to soar.

“Such paltry investment in cycling won’t be enough to stop the UK lagging behind similar European nations for cycling participation.”

Sajid Javid, the chancellor, added: “We want to level up transport services in every region of the UK. As part of the plan, we are investing £5bn in bus and cycle links. The extra funding will improve people’s everyday journeys, making them quicker and easier."

Darren Shirley, the chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "This is a significant step change from the government and welcome news for communities up and down the country who have borne the brunt of poor or non-existent local public transport in recent years.

“Appropriately allocated, this funding should help to improve air quality and drive down carbon emissions by supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles; reduce fares and speed up journey times; and restore lost services and routes that have left many communities disconnected."

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