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Weekly Edition - Published  5 December 2015

 

Local News Report - Mobile Page

 

Pioneering approach to transform bus services in the Liverpool City Region gets the green light

PEOPLE actively choosing to take the bus, rather than using it because they may have no choice about how to travel, is the drive behind a pioneering approach to transform bus services that Merseytravel Committee Members approved on Thursday, 3 December 2015.

Merseytravel will now enter into a formal 'Bus Alliance' initially with operators Arriva and Stagecoach; who together operate 90% of commercial bus services in the Liverpool City Region; focused on growing the number of fare paying passengers, improving customer satisfaction and driving up investment for the benefit of all who use bus services.

The ambitious growth targets of a 10% increase in passenger journeys; the equivalent of over 9 million more journeys; by April 2017, will be 1 of the first of their kind in Britain.

With 80% of public transport journeys in the Liverpool City Region being made by bus, but only 10% of these being commuter journeys, there is potential for bus to play a much more significant role in growing the City Region's economy, better linking people with jobs and opportunities.

The Bus Alliance will take a City Region wide approach looking at matching bus routes to demand, the clarity of fare structures and value for money, the quality of vehicles, how easy it is to get information, reliability and punctuality of services and the standard of customer service.

As part of the Devolution Deal, and subject to the emerging Buses Bill, the City Region has been given the ability to franchise bus services that secures powers similar to London and many other European cities.

While a business case for franchising is being developed, it is expected that if a decision was taken to enact the powers it would be a number of years before it could be introduced. The Bus Alliance will enable improvements for customers now.

Key work areas will include:-

  Increased levels of investment in new and greener vehicles.
► All new vehicles to have Wi-Fi and at seat USB charging points, and an aim for existing buses to have Wi-Fi + USB retrofitted.
► Development of a clear point of contact for dealing with customer feedback.
► Development of City Centre Bus Routing strategy, making journeys quicker and more direct.
► A review of the City Region bus network, ensuring a clear network that is easier to understand, encourages growth and is less reliant on public subsidies.
► Improved bus links to and from John Lennon Airport to Liverpool South Parkway and the City Centre.
► Streamlined service changes from January 2016, with only 3 change dates a year, common to all operators. This makes bus services more stable and will allow information to be updated more easily for the benefit of customers.
► Review of zonal structures and pricing to make ticket buying more simple.
► Review of all customer information including further development of Real Time Information.
► Development of an approach to better integrate bus and rail.
► Delivering new bespoke Customer Service training for all drivers

The Bus Alliance will look to build on the good work that has already been achieved such as investments in fleet by the operators and joint work with Merseytravel to improve the cleanliness of buses. The introduction of the £2 all day bus ticket for young people, MyTicket, and the increase in age eligibility for young people's fares, up to and including the age of 18 across much of the network, is a particular recent success with the City Region now having the best young people's ticketing offer for bus outside of London.  In addition, work with operators has already made our Walrus smart ticketing scheme the most active scheme outside London.

The Bus Alliance will take this work to the next stage through an investment plan to deliver even more improvements for customers. Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel told us that:- "Giving the green light to this pioneering approach to bus means we can make meaningful improvements now, working to make it a mode of choice rather than last resort. Rail gets the attention but eight in 10 public transport journeys in the Liverpool City Region are actually made by bus. Bus is arguably more flexible and improvements can be made, and noticed, much more quickly. Together with operators, we have a real chance to do things differently, benefitting customers and the wider economy, building on what we've already achieved with young people's tickets and smart ticketing."

Said Gary Nolan, Regional Director North, Stagecoach UK Bus:- "We are pleased to be part of the Alliance, and working together with our partners will provide greater momentum to further improve the quality of bus services across the City Region."

Commenting on the formation of the Merseyside Bus Alliance, Phil Stone, Regional Managing Director of Arriva North West and Wales said:- "The Merseyside Bus Alliance will first and foremost improve bus services for passengers by setting firm targets for all operators and stakeholders. We are delighted to be part of a stable partnership which will ultimately deliver better journeys, new vehicles, innovations for customers, improved infrastructure and allow us to make longer term investment plans for Merseyside"

 

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