New report calls for urgent upgrade of bus services in Shropshire

Posted on Sep 30, 2020 in News

A 12 month project on Shropshire’s buses funded by Foundation for Integrated Transport has produced a final report.  The final report is available to download here.

The project carried out a detailed examination of Shropshire’s bus services and concluded that there was considerable scope for improvement and that when improvements made on best practice are carried out thoroughly and consistently our buses will deliver important benefits that are already agreed Shropshire Council policy commitments:

  • Reduce carbon emissions in line with the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in May 2019
  • Reduce air pollution by encouraging a switch from car trips to bus trips on buses that meet air pollution reduction standards and are progressively converted to zero carbon technology
  • Reduce congestion in Shrewsbury
  • Improve public health in line with the World Health Organisation’s advice that we must increase active travel (walk, cycle and bus) if we are to deal with the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease
  • Widen choices for those making journeys especially those that live in rural areas, villages, small towns and market towns.   It is important that residents have a choice between high quality bus services and use of the car and they can be trusted to make these choices
  • Reduce the number of car trips that are less than 5 miles in length by encouraging a switch from cars to high quality buses.  18% of our car trips are less than 5 miles in length and a reduction will make it  clear that we do not need to spend £74 million on new road building (the NWRR in Shrewsbury) and we do not need to damage countryside, nature, tranquility and the use of countryside for quiet recreation

The bus project concluded with 6 recommendations:

  • Shropshire Council increases its bus support budget from £2.8million in 2018-19 to £6.39 million in 2021-22.  The £6.39  million figure is based on the Cornwall Council per capita subsidy applied to the Shropshire Population 
  • The increased funding for improved bus services should be linked to an increase in the diversity of operators.  We recommend that the council give careful consideration to alternative ways of providing bus services, modelled for example on the success of the West Oxfordshire Community Transport Company Ltd 
  • Shropshire Council should invite bids from town and parish councils for specific improvements to bus services and use this increased level of funding to adopt a rolling programme of improvement based on the bids over the next 10 years.  It is essential that there is a 10 year improvement commitment including county-wide  timetables (printed and on-line)  and a single ticket
  • Shropshire Council adopts the Cornwall bus policy based on the Bus Services (2017) Act and adopt the “single ticket” model. This will cover every trip and every operator across the county as a whole.  It is up to the Council to work out how this will be done but we recommend the Cornwall approach.  
  • Shropshire Council should deploy the same financial skills that were used to provide £20 million of funds for the North West Relief Road and provide funding for a new bus station in Shrewsbury, much improved Park and Ride in Shrewsbury and Ludlow, real-time information systems for Shrewsbury and Ludlow bus services, a single-ticket offer covering all bus services in the county irrespective of which operator provides the service and much increased bus shelter provision.
  • Shropshire Council should jointly fund (with the NHS) a fully electric bus, free to use, from Shrewsbury bus station, every 10 minutes (including Sundays) to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH).  The rationale for this is that RSH is the largest car trip generator in Shropshire.  RSH has 1787 car parking spaces and hospital car trip generation can reach 3 million pa (Derriford Hospital in Plymouth

The bus project contacted every town and parish council in Shropshire requesting suggestions for specific service improvements.  We selected a small number of representative examples (Note 2) of specific service improvements and costed them and they include:

  • A Sunday service to Shrewsbury bus station based on the Meole Brace Park and Ride service extended to Bayston Hill
  • A bus to connect Bishop’s Castle to Craven Arms train station
  • Reinstate the 141 Ludlow-Bridgnorth service
  • A direct service from Craven Arms to the Princess Royal Hospital
  • A bus from Overton to make connections with route 146 to Ellsemere and on to Whitchurch

Commenting on the conclusion of the bus project the project director, Professor John Whitelegg, said:

“Buses in Shropshire urgently need a serious upgrade.  They can contribute significantly to dealing with climate change, reducing congestion and improving public health.  The costs of doing this are much less than the costs of not doing this and it is time that Shropshire embraced the need and the urgency for an upgrade and deliver a 21st century bus service for 350,000 people”

Image: Robert Thompson