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Leicester Bus Services Improvement Plan announced

Published on Monday, November 1, 2021

4 minute read

Green Lines Park and Ride bus passing the King Power Stadium

AMBITIOUS plans have been announced to vastly improve bus services, vehicles and routes across Leicester as part of a 10-year project involving the city council and local bus operators.

The Leicester Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) proposals sets out measures to modernise and upgrade bus travel throughout the city, including bringing in over 200 fully electric buses, improving reliability and frequency of services, automated digital ticketing, as well as introducing bus lane and signal measures to give priority to public transport.

The proposals would establish a formal partnership between the council and bus companies to bring the measures into effect by 2025, with a view to encouraging more people to use the city’s public transport network.

Extensive consultation has already taken place with local bus operators, passengers and other local stakeholders to establish what is currently provided for bus users, their main issues and priorities, and the role bus travel can play in the equitable and sustainable growth of the city as it recovers from the pandemic.

So far £95million has already been secured through bids to the Government, together with local investment from bus operators and the city council to move forward with the work.

Submitting the BSIP to Department for Transport now means the partnership will also be able to get a share of nearly £3 billion of national funding announced by the Government as part of its new National Bus Strategy (Bus Back Better), which requires councils to work with operators to come up with forward-thinking plans to encourage more people to use local bus services.

Leicester’s plans include a ‘Mainlines’ urban network of 25 route groups, using 168 electric buses with audio-visual displays and enhanced access features.

The network would feature new bus priority measures and signal priority, automated ‘best fare’ digital ticketing, on-street real time information at all boarding stops, new bus shelters at main boarding stops, and make use of the new St Margaret’s bus station which is currently under construction.

Mainline routes would include cross-operator timetables across the city, ensuring buses every 15 minutes during the daytime Monday to Friday, every 30 minutes on evenings and Sundays, and every 10 minutes on Mainline routes connecting to key locations outside the city centre.

In addition, a network of five ‘Greenlines’ subsidised electric bus routes would also be in place, including three express routes connecting to the city’s three Park and Ride sites.

It also proposes 40 electric buses with audio-visual displays and improved access and automated ‘best fare’ ticketing, which would operate every 15 minutes from Monday to Saturday on inner and outer orbital routes featuring significant bus priority measures.

A smaller ‘Flexlines’ network of four on-demand electric bus routes would run to access areas of the city away from the main bus network.

Under the partnership plans, all bus services would be integrated with joined up timetables, fares, ticketing and information systems with a common, clearly understood ‘Leicester Buses’ brand.

The plans also aim to upgrade half of Leicester’s bus fleet to electric by 2025, with further work proposed for 2025-2030 to provide financially-sustainable conditions for all operators to upgrade the entire Leicester fleet to zero emission buses by 2030.

Last week it was announced that Leicester City Council had successfully bid for £19million from the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, towards a £47million programme that will see the introduction of almost 100 new electric buses.

Leicester City Council will work in partnership with local operators FirstBus and Arriva which will provide match-funding towards the ambitious programme.

The LBIP is closely linked to the wider consultation process on Leicester City Council’s draft Local Transport Plan 2021-2036. This includes a significant proposal to introduce a workplace parking levy - subject to Secretary of State support - which will assist in providing local finance for the bus plan.

Leicester deputy city mayor for environment and transport, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “For many years we have been calling for councils to be given more decision-making powers regarding local public transport, and this partnership will now enable us to work with bus operators to create a comprehensive citywide network to meet modern needs.

“Last summer we set our intention to carry out this wide-ranging research and consultation work, and this Bus Service Improvement Plan is the result.

“It includes more than 200 electric buses, changes to routes to give buses priority over other vehicles, and improvements to reliability and frequency of services, to make bus travel a more attractive alternative to car use.

“The goals of this plan are clear – to increase bus use, improve punctuality and to improve passenger satisfaction, as well as working towards an entirely electric fleet of buses by 2030.

“We would need to finance this work from a range of sources, including bidding for a share of the Government’s £3billion programme, as well as ongoing investment from bus companies and the council itself.

“That would also include money raised from any workplace parking levy, which is due to be consulted upon in the coming months.”

Councils have until the end of March 2022 to finalise details of how the partnership will bring the planned measures into effect.

In addition to the £95 million of funding which is already secured, the scheme is estimated to require a further £57m of capital expenditure and around £17m additional revenue expenditure up to 2025.

Much of this is proposed to be locally financed, with the BSIP to bid to the Government for between £31million and £38million capital, and around £10million to £13million revenue up to 2025. Indicative costs of the scheme suggest an investment of £107million between 2025 to 2030, along with ongoing support costs of around £3.5m per year.

First Leicester is one of the local bus companies involved in the partnership.

Managing Director Nigel Eggleton said: “We will continue to work closely with Leicester City Council and its officers on the BSIP proposals, as there are many key benefits that can be achieved through the plan if we are successful in being awarded a portion of the Government’s investment pot.

“Bus priority initiatives and funding for off-peak travel could certainly make a real difference to making bus services more attractive and accessible for our local communities.

“This investment could also help to encourage people back to using buses again, as reliable and punctual bus journeys at a fair price provide a positive proposition for people to consider as their preferred mode of transport around the city.”