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New Somerset bus manifesto launched

THE Somerset Bus Partnership (SBP) has launched a new bus manifesto that calls for enhanced evening and weekend services, buses to be better integrated with train times, as well as better promotion of existing bus services. 

Co-chair of SBP, Peter Travis said, “We need a new policy on buses for Somerset.  Somerset bus services are substandard, yet Somerset County Council has refused to spend any more money on the county’s buses. Nor will the Government fund the total cost of the upgrades Somerset says it needs. So, we have launched our SBP bus manifesto which outlines the steps that need to be taken to improve our Somerset bus services.” 

The group say that Somerset currently has the lowest approval rating of any bus service in England and the second lowest bus journeys per resident. Last October, Somerset County Council submitted a bid to the Department for Transport asking for £163 millions of Government funding. The Government has now said Somerset is only going to receive 7% of what Somerset had wanted. 

Peter continued, “The bid for £163 millions was something of a pipedream. Yes, we supported it, but no one thought Somerset would get such an eye-watering amount of money, especially as Somerset County Council itself wasn’t prepared to fund any of the plan it had produced. So, we need a policy on buses for Somerset that over the next four years sees a steady increase in investment in Somerset’s bus services by the County. That’s what our bus manifesto calls for.” 

The SBP manifesto is a six-point plan that calls for enhanced evening and weekend bus services, better promotion of existing bus services, buses to be better integrated with train times, an extension of demand responsive ‘Slinky’ bus services and the introduction of a discounted youth fare. 

Leaders of the conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens in Somerset have all publicly backed the manifesto.  

Peter added, “We launched our bus manifesto to make buses a key issue for all the parties standing for the unitary election and we now have the leaders of all the main parties standing in Somerset, personally backing our manifesto. Also, more than half of all the candidates standing for election have contacted us individually to pledge their personal support for improving buses in the county.

SCC’s Climate Emergency Strategy is to achieve a zero-emission bus fleet by 2030, the Bus Manifesto also supports this aim. The group also says that the bus manifesto recognises this is going to require greater funding from Somerset and states that within the next four years Somerset will need to increase its financial support for bus services, so it matches the average of similar rural authorities in the South West. 

Somerset Bus Partnership campaigns for improved bus services in Somerset and encourages the greater use of buses. It has over 120 representatives from the towns and villages across the County. 

Pictured: Co-Chair of Somerset Bus Partnership, Peter Travis.

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