Congested city bids for £4m to help revolutionise bus services

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YORK’S creaking bus system is set for a multi-million pound overhaul to help pave the way for a transport revolution in one of the most congested cities in the north.

York Council is submitting a bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) for £4.2m to help revolutionise the city’s bus network over the next two years and introduce a smart ticketing system similar to London’s Oystercard scheme although with differently structured fares.

The announcement follows news that more than £4.5m of new sustainable transport initiatives are to be rolled out across York after the city has become one of the first in the country to be awarded money from the Government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).

York has been named as the UK’s second-fastest growing city after Milton Keynes and its population has now broken the 200,000 mark.

Coun Dave Merrett, York Council cabinet member for city strategy, told the Yorkshire Post that tackling its under-pressure transport infrastructure is now an urgent priority for members and taxpayers.

“Better buses are absolutely crucial,” he said.

“York is a growing city and we have to become much more public transport orientated in terms of meeting the growing numbers of people within such a limited road network.

“Park and ride is fine for people coming from outside the city but we need a decent local bus network within the city and we don’t have that at the moment.

“The bus services are better now than they were 10 years ago but there needs to be a major improvement to get a lot more residents using them.

“We know we need a step change in terms of the quality of the local bus service and its integration.”

The bid to the DfT’s Better Bus Area Fund includes plans to incorporate a smart ticket to be used across the city operators and five new city centre bus interchanges created at Stonebow (for the west of the city), Piccadilly (south), the railway station (west), the Theatre Royal (north), and Rougier Street / Station Road (centre).

The new interchanges would feature better infrastructure for people waiting for buses, clear printed timetables and maps, and real time travel information.

The bid also includes a range of measures to improve the ease of bus travel through the city centre, such as CCTV to enforce the existing traffic restrictions in Coppergate, a bus lane along part of Clarence Street, and a bus controller for all services to monitor punctuality and take action to restore it if necessary.

It is hoped a new targeted marketing initiative and better on-street bus information, alongside the proposed improvements will see bus usage rocket.

York Council is also considering supporting a bid to the Better Bus Area Fund by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, for the quicker delivery of smart ticketing across the region.

Coun Merrett is expected to give the go-ahead to both bids at a decision session meeting on Tuesday February 21.

The £4.5m sustainable transport scheme, which was announced last month and is designed to follow on from the successful initiative Cycling City York, will focus on personal and business travel planning as well further improvements to cycling, walking and public transport infrastructure.

The Government has also recently given extra funding to help improve air quality in a York where pollution has been linked to scores of deaths every year.

In January, York Council received an additional £19,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to tackle pollution, especially from traffic.

The council was given £68,500 in April last year, which is funding a study to look at reducing traffic fumes.

Pollution had been linked to an estimated 158 premature deaths in York every year.