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The next phase of the ambitious plans to transform bus services in Warrington - with cheaper fares, increased reliability and high quality, accessible vehicles - is under way.
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet has approved new plans - as part of Warrington’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) - to move ahead with improvements to services across the board, working in partnership with local bus operators.
It means Warrington’s Enhanced Partnership - set up between the council and all local bus operators – can drive forward with its work to improve all aspects of bus services. This includes just under £10m investment in bus priority measures and over £6m investment to fund a local fare cap and introduce additional bus services until March 2025.
The council will now enter into contracts with local bus service operators to put the BSIP funding into use over the next two years. This work will focus on the provision of additional, more frequent, punctual and reliable services, reduced fares and better ticketing, along with higher quality, more accessible vehicles - including 105 new electric buses.
All Warrington passengers will now benefit from plans to extend the duration of the maximum £2 single fare cap on all bus journeys. While the national scheme ends on 31 October 2023, Warrington will be keeping the cap at £2 for adult fares all the way through to March 2025.
In addition, a fare cap of £1 per single journey for all child fares is being introduced in Warrington – also running to March 2025 - with eligibility extended to all bus passengers aged under 19 years of age.
The local fare caps – which will be promoted by the council and local bus operators – will launch on Saturday 1 July, providing low travel costs for the school holidays and for days out over the summer.
Cabinet has also improved proposals for the development of a new bus priority scheme on the A49 Winwick Road southbound. This will speed up bus services through measures such as sections of new bus lane (which would be via an additional southbound lane, maintaining the existing two lanes for other traffic to use), bus gates and enhanced traffic signal technology.
This scheme will be funded with the support of just under £9.9m of capital funding awarded to the council by the Department for Transport to progress BSIP infrastructure.
Meanwhile, good progress continues to be made in delivering the ZEBRA project, which will see the replacement of Warrington’s Own Buses’ entire fleet of diesel buses with 105 new electric buses, giving Warrington one of the largest all-electric bus fleets in the country.
With work on Warrington’s brand new bus depot – which will house the electric fleet – now complete, the next steps are for the council to place the orders for the electric buses and chargers.
As required, the council has referred its proposals to pass the buses and chargers to Warrington’s Own Buses at nominal cost to the Subsidy Advice Unit (SAU) of the Competition and Markets Authority. The SAU has now reviewed and published its formal report on the matter, which means the council can place the orders for the buses and chargers - with the new vehicles coming into service during 2024.
The next phase of Warrington’s bus improvements programme will build on a range of improvements carried out in recent months, including:
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for transport, Cllr Hans Mundry, said: “I’m delighted that our ambitious plans for the future of bus services in Warrington have been approved. We are committed to delivering the highest quality bus services, as part of our work to increase bus usage and achieve a mode shift from the car. It’s a vital part of our Local Transport Plan (LTP4) and climate emergency commitment.
“To make this vision a reality, we need to deliver a modern, attractive, reliable and affordable bus service – and the next phase of Warrington’s bus improvement programme will enable us to make huge strides in achieving this.
“Our Enhanced Partnership will play a key role in this transformation, giving us a fantastic opportunity to work with all operators locally to make significant improvements that will benefit existing passengers and encourage more people to choose the bus for their journeys.
“The improvements planned will ensure that our state-of-the-art, electric buses will be just one part of a much wider package of improvements – including cheaper fares, increased accessibility, faster journey times and improved punctuality, supported by effective bus priority measures.
“It’s an exciting time for bus travel in Warrington, as we continue on our journey towards delivering a first class service which is truly fit for the future.”