Two pieces of good news have come along at once for Cornwall’s bus travellers this week – the arrival of the 102nd new lower emissions bus into the Duchy’s fleet coupled with Monday’s launch of the Government’s new £3billion National Bus Strategy, which will enable Cornwall Council to deliver a reduced bus fares pilot.
The 102 new buses, like all others in Cornwall, have contactless ticketing and have all hit the road in the past year.
The Government has published ‘Bus Back Better’, which aims to deliver better bus services and an improved customer experience for passengers.
Particularly welcomed by the Council is confirmation of the award of £23.5million to deliver a reduced bus fares pilot scheme over the next four years, starting in autumn 2021.
Cornwall will be the first authority in the country to introduce such a scheme and has been given this opportunity by the Government to support the Council’s ambitious bus service improvement plans.
Geoff Brown, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Transport, said: “This is fantastic news for the people of Cornwall.
“Originally the reduced bus fares pilot scheme was due to be introduced in Cornwall in 2020 but Covid restrictions meant that the initiative had to be put on hold. Now we can start to make plans to be the first authority to introduce a reduced fares scheme.
“This is a significant step forward and complements Cornwall’s investment in public transport to connect communities and to provide a viable alternative to taking the car to support our commitment to tackle the climate emergency. This will also help people returning to work as Covid restrictions are lifted by making bus travel more affordable and attractive.”
Since 2016 Cornwall Council has invested significantly in its One Public Transport System for Cornwall programme as part of the Devolution Deal for transport and using money from the Local Growth Fund and operators to provide a high-quality, integrated and customer-focused public transport network.
The Council currently supports 50 per cent of the total bus mileage in Cornwall, with the remaining mileage being run commercially – by First Kernow and Go Cornwall Bus.
In March 2020 a new, eight-year local bus service contract with Go Cornwall Bus and its subcontractors Hopley’s, OTS and Travel Cornwall commenced, improving the quality, frequency and connectivity of the bus network in Cornwall.
To operate the contract, Go Cornwall Bus and its subcontractors have taken delivery of 102 brand new, Euro 6 emissions compliant, buses.
These vehicles are the latest generation of cleaner diesel buses, producing 75 per cent less nitrogen dioxide than earlier models and now provide Cornwall with the youngest supported service fleet in the country at just two years old. Go Cornwall Bus and its partners are operating services under the brand Transport for Cornwall.
Geoff Brown added: “The eight-year contract with Go Cornwall Bus ensures that Cornwall has the most modern fleet of buses in the country on its network and will create a stable foundation for public transport in the years ahead.
“As well as confirmation of the award of the Bus Fares Pilot funding to Cornwall, I am also encouraged by the key themes of the National Bus Strategy of partnership working and the delivery of a frequent, cheaper and greener network, all areas that Cornwall is already making great progress towards. ”
Richard Stevens, Managing Director of Go Cornwall Bus, said: "We are very proud to play our part in delivering 102 brand new buses into Cornwall in the past year.
“The overall vision of Cornwall Council from its tender award last year to make sure the quality of bus service in the Duchy improved both quality for the passenger and the air was a great boost.
“I would like to thank all those involved in achieving so much in what has been an unprecedented year. We welcome the Government's new bus strategy and look forward to bringing even more benefits to bus users in the county.”
The National Bus Strategy provides the Council with a greater influence on how operators deliver better customer focused and integrated services across the whole bus network.
It all forms part of the Council’s One Public Transport System project – a customer-focused system with one integrated bus and rail network, one timetable, one ticket, one standard and one brand – Transport for Cornwall.