Cambridgeshire buses to be a ‘21st century utility’?

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority has published a bus review, which is expected to help shape the future of services in the area. As a mayoral authority, it has the option to introduce franchising.

Consultant Systra says: ‘This bus review cannot, and does not, seek to present a single preferred solution for the network.’ It recognises that busy urban routes in Cambridge and Peterborough would benefit ‘with priority given to buses over all other modes on selected key corridors [while] enhancing rural transport might require a disproportionate share of the total funding for public transport’.

Feeder services to hubs may be an option, though it accepts that users are resistant to interchange, while it says there would be increased efficiency by merging park-&-ride services into the main network.

It recommends treating public transport as ‘a 21st Century utility’.

Although the initial focus should be to start engaging with operators to investigate an enhanced partnership in the short term, it says the longer term should include developing a business case that would include franchising as an option.

It sees this as a way of levering out about £3.5million of what it describes as ‘excess profit’ from current bus operations, which would double public spending against today’s levels. It says this would allow a centrally planned approach, with the combined authority managing the network, including establishing new routes, allocating subsidies, promoting a common branding and integrated ticketing.

It would also seek closer integration of education, health and welfare transport with local buses, and establish community bus partnerships, possibly using multipurpose vehicles. £2million has now been agreed to allow work to proceed on the business cases for the different options, to inform a decision expected at the beginning of 2021. The report notes that until the authority’s aspirations are clarified, operators are left with uncertainty over future investment.