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Wiltshire Council misses out on bus improvement funding

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WILTSHIRE Council has expressed its disappointment at missing out on the government’s National Bus Strategy funding to help support, improve and increase usage of bus services in the county.

The government has announced that only 31 of 79 authorities that submitted Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIP) have received part of the £7bn funding, and Wiltshire has missed out. 

The council’s BSIP, submitted in November 2021, was produced in partnership with local bus operators, and was designed to support the local economy by improving access to shops and businesses; help vulnerable and elderly residents to access essential services; reduce carbon emissions; and support leisure and tourism. 

Amongst the proposed bus service improvements, Melksham stood to gain from better bus connections with the railway station, and investment in Melksham as an interchange hub, as part of a ‘superbus network’. 

About the superbus network, Wiltshire Council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan said, “The network will, along with the Salisbury urban network, be the priority for investment in roadside passenger infrastructure, passenger information including real-time, investment in bus priority measures in town centres and in other measures such as parking and loading reviews elsewhere.” 

About the recent disappointment, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for transport, cllr Dr Mark McClelland said, “We’re extremely disappointed that, alongside more than half of the other local authorities who submitted a bid, we’ve missed out on this funding. Council officers worked hard to produce a comprehensive and ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plan to support and improve bus services in Wiltshire – services that are vital in a rural county such as ours. 

“If we had been successful, this funding would have enabled us to reduce fares and invest in new services for our most vulnerable residents and attract new users, but we will now no longer be able to make these investments at this time for the people of Wiltshire and visitors to our county. 

“Bus services are still a priority for us and having well-connected communities is a key part of our business plan. We know that buses help to reduce congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions, as well as saving people money, particularly as petrol prices continue to rise. 

“However, we’ll now need to regroup, and rethink our approach as we look to the future for bus services and transport in Wiltshire.”

Despite Wiltshire’s lack of success in this round of government funding, some bus service improvements are still on the horizon.

Wiltshire Council was successful in the previous first round of funding and was awarded £671,000 from the government.  

In September last year, the council announced that it would be making improvements to 34 bus services across the county, including the reintroduction of Melksham’s evening and Sunday bus services to Chippenham and Trowbridge; and additional journeys added to the Trowbridge to Corsham service, ‘route 69’, which serves Melksham and many of the surrounding villages.

They had said the improvements would be delivered within the ‘current financial year’ (2021/22), however, in January this year, Wiltshire Council explained that the improvements were being held up because of a shortage of bus drivers.  

The council told Melksham News at the time that it was ‘difficult’ to say when it will be possible to make the improvements. 

People can read the council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan that was submitted in November 2021, at: www.wiltshire. gov.uk/transport/bus-service-improvement-plan

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