Further boost for local public transport

Operators sign up to £150 million West Midlands Bus Alliance.

Bus operators across the West Midlands have signed up to a groundbreaking new initiative delivering millions of pounds of investment to the region’s network.

The Bus Alliance is the first of its kind in the country and will see £150 million invested by operators and partners between now and 2021.

The investment in bus fleets by operators will enable them to meet rigorous new standards on key issues such as vehicle emission levels, branding, maximum fares and frequency. The Alliance has been devised by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority and Centro, its delivery arm.

Councillor Roger Lawrence, the chair of the ITA, said: “The Bus Alliance is a national first which will deliver massive benefits for passengers over the next five years. Together we will drive up standards and continue to develop the network through the joint investment of £150 million. It will further strengthen the relationship between our West Midlands local authorities, the transport delivery body and all bus operators, large and small.”

The Alliance had its inaugural meeting on November 27 at Centro House in Birmingham and is chaired by Cllr John McNicholas, the chair of the ITA delivery committee. He said: “Previous partnerships have worked well and the Bus Alliance will allow us to continue the good work by achieving even higher standards. Crucially, we will be working with the smaller bus operators to help them meet those new standards and ensure the network is not monopolised by the bigger companies.”

Peter Coates, managing director of National Express West Midlands added on behalf of bus operators: “This agreement is great news for bus users in the West Midlands. It will deliver quicker journey times, newer buses, better on board services and limit fare increases.”

It is the first time that bus companies, highways departments and leaders of local councils have come together to deliver such a raft of improvements.

The Bus Alliance will operate thorough much wider use of Statutory Quality Partnership powers under the Transport Act 2000. An SQP has been used since 2010 by Centro and Birmingham City Council to set a minimum standard of quality for buses operating in the city centre. They will now be rolled out over the entire region under the banner of the Alliance.

Unlike previous bus agreements, companies will now have to comply with the standards set down by the Alliance. Before, this was done voluntarily and bus companies that did not take part were still able to operate on the lucrative routes and locations around the region. Now this is no longer the case and it will allow the Alliance to tackle quality issues identified across all the districts of the West Midlands, such as working to remove older and more polluting buses.

It will also work to ensure objectives set down in the ITA’s bus policy are met. These include:

· To increase bus patronage by 5%.
· Improvement in peak time journey speeds.
· Fare rises of no more the RPI +1% per annum.
· Customer satisfaction levels remains at over 85%.
· Discounted young person’s travel for everyone under 19-years-old.
· Integrated ticketless travel in line with intelligent mobility policy.
· Increased investment in highways infrastructure to aid journey times and reliability.
· Improvement on board through improved seating, next stop announcements and wifi.

The Alliance will also develop a multi-million pound package of measures to improve bus speeds and make journeys more reliable for customers across the region. It will be run by a board comprised of councillors, and representatives from bodies including local authorities, bus operators, the ITA, West Midlands Police, Transport Focus and is supported by the Department for Transport.

It will be enforced by the Traffic Commissioner in the same way as the SQP in Birmingham city centre, where bus companies failing to comply have been barred from operating.