Stoke-on-Trent City Council has launched a public consultation as part of drawing up an ambitious plan to transform transport in the city.
The plan aims to create a ‘better connected city’ by improving public transport, providing better passenger information, and improving opportunities to walk and cycle.
Cabinet member for regeneration, infrastructure and heritage Dan Jellyman said the plan showed the council had the “ambition to develop and deliver a reputable transport network for the whole of Stoke-on-Trent”.
Public transport in the six towns has had a difficult couple of years with passenger numbers failing to recover to pre-pandemic levels. This has compounded one of the fastest declines in bus use in the country, falling from 15.6 million journeys in 2009/10 to 8.6 million in 2019/20.
Councillors have also expressed concerns that funding for cheaper fares forming part of a £31.7mn grant to deliver the city’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) will create a ‘cliff edge’ endangering the long-term survival of services when it runs out in 2025.
Funding concerns are a national issue
While the £31.7mn secured to deliver the BSIP is a significant injection of cash into local transport services it represents just 26% of the £121.7mn for which the council initially applied.
In their report Funding Local Bus Services in England the Campaign for Better Transport note that it has been a feature of the application process for government funding that rural councils and those with smaller transport planning teams have fared poorly at winning the full grant asked for.
Silviya Barrett of the Campaign for Better Transport said forcing councils to compete for funding was “producing the same winners and losers time and again”, she called on the government to move away from a “fragmented and competitive” process and instead provide a long-term funding settlement for all transport authorities.
Proposals are also included in the plan for a Very Light Rail (VLR) network using Northern, Central, and Southern lines to connect all six towns.
Councillor Jellyman said the VLR network was “a key part” of the transport strategy and was something the city “should have done 15 years ago when Manchester and Birmingham were doing it, so I am very keen not to waste any more time”.
The public consultation will run from 19 October to 30 November.
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