In the West Midlands, we have a proud history of delivering better bus services through partnership. Every year over a quarter of a billion journeys are made by bus in the region and passenger satisfaction with services has increased by 7% since 2012.
Through the Transforming Bus Travel programme, over £100m of investment has been delivered in improving services for passengers through partnership initiatives with bus operators. This has resulted in a more modern fleet with lower emissions, the UK’s most advanced smart card ticketing system outside London through Swift, the largest real-time passenger information system outside of London and much improved perceptions of personal security.
The formation of the West Midlands Combined Authority provides a new opportunity to advance this partnership to a new level, ensuring that not only do bus companies provide a network that enables excellent connectivity and supports the development of the region’s economy but also that the regions highways authorities recognise their role in supporting this by providing a road network that enables fast, punctual bus journeys to operate.
To achieve this a new Alliance Board has been established that consists of representatives from the regions bus operators, the Combined Authority, Council highways and transportation departments, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Safer Travel Police, influential councillors. It is chaired by Transport Focus.
The Alliance Board are the people responsible for identifying what the region’s buses need to be able to deliver and then putting policies and funding streams in place for this to be achieved.
Alliance objectives include:
- To increase bus patronage by 5%.
- Improvement in peak time journey speeds.
- Fare rises of no more the Retail Price Index +1% per annum.
- Customer satisfaction levels remaining at over 85%.
- Discounted young person's travel for everyone under 19 years old.
- Integrated ticketless travel in line with intelligent mobility policy.
- Increased investment in highways infrastructure to aid journey times and reliability.
- Improvement on board through improved seating, next stop announcements and Wi-Fi.
The Birmingham City Centre Advanced Quality Partnership Scheme (AQPS) was introduced in July 2012. The AQPS is the biggest of its kind in the UK. This covers multi-million pound investment in bus shelters, way-finding and bus lane enforcement in the city centre and requires all bus operators who enter the city centre to improve their quality standards, including exhaust emissions. Through the Bus Alliance we are working to develop similar schemes in other areas of the region. The Solihull scheme was made on 18th August 2017 and will go live in November 2017.
Until 27th June 2017 the AQPS schemes were known as Statutory Quality Partnership Schemes (SQPS) but as part of the new powers we have under the Bus Services Act the name of such schemes have automatically changed to Advanced Quality Partnership Schemes. In terms of Birmingham City Centre there is no material change in the requirements of the scheme other than the name.