East Cambridgeshire District Council is seeking funding from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) to trial new bus services across East Cambridgeshire to allow them to become established and viable.
Accessible and affordable public transport is essential for many rural residents, yet bus use is declining, a trend which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Low population density and longer distances to travel make practical and commercially sustainable public transport difficult in rural areas. Funding for bus services continues to be reduced and this has led to services in East Cambridgeshire being withdrawn or reduced so that the areas, days and times of operation do not meet the needs of residents.
In East Cambridgeshire, by necessity, only 13% (4510 out of 34,614) of households do not have a car or van (Census 2011). Data from the 2011 Census also shows high levels of car reliance across the district for both work and other journeys. 72.8% of East Cambridgeshire residents travel to work by car (the England average is 61%). Given that 40% of households (13,990) have only one car or van, many more people are left with no vehicle when another person from the household goes to work and are therefore dependent on public transport.
Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Council understands the importance of continuing to provide a regular, comprehensive bus service for its residents. The East Cambridgeshire District Council Corporate Plan 2020-2023 includes a promise to ‘support better bus services: more frequent, more rural routes’.
To inform this work, which the Council considers to be vitally important, it carried out a consultation exercise to identify key bus services for local residents. The aim of the consultation was to identify bus routes that are viable, or can become self-financing or close to self-financing, over a period of time, and to seek funding for a trial period to allow routes to become established in terms of passenger numbers and move towards financial viability. In developing this report, the Council has not sought to determine how bus services should be delivered (ie, CPCA commissioned, partial subsidy, franchise, bus partnership), but is promoting what a good bus service network should look like for the residents of East Cambridgeshire.
The New Bus Service Proposals for East Cambridgeshire prospectus was adopted by the Council in November 2020.