As the government announces that Cheshire West & Chester will not be awarded any money to improve bus services, the government has been forcefully criticised by Chester’s Labour MP.
Chris Matheson has pointed to over a decade of poor decisions by Conservative councillors and Ministers which have left Chester without funding for bus service improvements.
“Conservative councillors sold Chester City Transport off in 2007, putting private profit ahead of service delivery and beginning the slow decline of our city’s public transport network. Fast forward to 2022 where we are still trying to fix these mistakes, and we see places like Warrington receiving funding because they never sold off their municipal bus service and Chester is being denied. At the same time, I have Conservative councillors writing to me on behalf of their residents because of issues with local bus services – it’s a joke!”
In March 2021, the Government launched their National Bus Strategy for England which asked Local Transport Authorities to develop a Bus Service Improvement Plan and to work with bus operators to develop an Enhanced partnership.
Cheshire West & Chester Council submitted an ambitious and thorough Bus Service Improvement Plan for the borough, aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bus.
Earlier this week, the Government announced that the council’s bid was unsuccessful.
“I am truly shocked at the Government’s decision to deny Chester the funding needed to improve our bus services. Good bus services help areas to reduce congestion in towns and stop rural communities being cut off. This announcement is a step back in fighting the climate emergency, a step back in connecting our communities and yet another step back in the Government’s promise to ‘Level Up’.
“Cheshire West and Chester Council submitted a strong and ambitious bid, and it is highly disappointing that it was unsuccessful. The Government always make grand announcements about funding, but the only way local authorities can access them is by competing against each other and bidding to this pot or that pot, hoping the Government take mercy on them – this is not good enough.”
Speaking on how this will affect local communities, Chris added:
“I have spoken out about this issue numerous times in the House of Commons and have been working with the local authority, bus operators and local communities to improve bus services across Chester and ensure they cater for all communities. This included plans for school buses to Saughall and early morning and late-night buses to Dodleston and Kinnerton. This funding was tied into these plans and these communities will be left disappointed. However, I can assure residents that I will continue to press for the funding needed to make our bus services better connected and greener.”