“BETTER” bus services could be on the table for Royal Borough residents as senior councillors agree to pursue a share of government funding.

A slice of £3 billion is up for grabs for local authorities as the government announced a new scheme called ‘Bus Back Better’, which includes making the service better, cheaper, and greener, as well as creating new routes for users, particularly those in rural areas.

As part of ‘levelling up’ the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s ambitious plans to improve the bus services and their usage nationally in wake of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.

At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, June 24, members agreed to pursue a share of this funding by forming new ‘enhanced partnerships’ with private sector operators in order for the council and bus providers to jointly deliver improved services.

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The council will now confirm to the Department for Transport (DfT) to proceed with the ‘enhanced partnerships’ model and will also undertake consultation and work on proposals, such as for new routes, with a bus service improvement strategy to be published by October 31.

This work will be covered by a £100,000 grant from the DfT.

Royal Borough Observer: Cllr Gerry Clark, lead member for transport and infrastructureCllr Gerry Clark, lead member for transport and infrastructure

Councillor Gerry Clark (Con: Bisham & Cookham), lead member for transport and infrastructure, said: “As we all know, buses are particularly important to our most vulnerable and most disadvantaged in our communities and those across the country.

“Buses are terribly important and I’m very pleased, personally, that the government has set buses and supported bus transport as a priority.

“It also allows us potentially to look at furthering our climate agenda because potentially, not pre-empting it, new services could be looking potentially cleaner buses and routes where there is greater uptake, reduces the number of car journeys, improves air quality, and helps towards our carbon target.”

Seconding the report, councillor David Cannon (Con: Datchet, Horton, and Wraysbury), lead member for public safety and parking, hoped this will reduce “social isolation” in rural areas such as in his ward following Heathrow Airport withdrawing the number 10 bus route.

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He said: “This has caused great social isolation, and this is something that is impacting lots of rural communities throughout our borough.

“I am sure by enabling us to have access to these monies and having a properly thought through bus strategy, I’m sure this will allow us to address these concerns and many others across the borough.”

If things go according to plan and the future improvement strategy is agreed, the funding from this scheme will be available to spend from April 2022.

Currently, there are 25 bus routes operating in the Royal Borough, provided by seven different operators including Arriva.