I am pleased today to launch the bidding process for designation of Better Bus Areas, and to announce that Sheffield will act as a trail-blazer for Better Bus Areas as part of its city deal.
Last March in ‘Green light for better buses’ I announced my intention to reform the way in which we directly support the bus market through the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG). A key part of this is the development of Better Bus Areas.
These are an innovative way of supporting the bus market for local transport authorities and bus operators working in partnership. Within Better Bus Areas BSOG for services run commercially will gradually be devolved to local authorities and this grant will be supplemented by a top up fund worth 20% of the commercial BSOG. This money will enable local transport authorities to tackle the local problems that hold back the bus market. I am today publishing guidance for local transport authorities wanting to become a Better Bus Area. Applications need to be with the department by 21 June and decisions will be made by 1 October 2013.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has been working with the department to develop Sheffield as a trailblazer Better Bus Area and I am pleased to announce that their application, which forms part of Sheffield’s city deal, has been successful. The Better Bus Area will increase funding for buses in Sheffield by £530,000 this financial year and just under £1.6 million in future years.
Between September and November last year we consulted on the arrangements for implementing our proposed reforms to the BSOG system. We have now had a chance to review all the responses to the consultation, and are now considering the final arrangements for devolving part of the BSOG budget to local authorities outside BBAs as well as some changes to the categories of bus service which qualify to receive BSOG. I expect to make a detailed announcement on these arrangements around Easter, with a view to implementing them in October this year.