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Bus fares capped at £1 for under-25s considered by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Bus fares capped at £1 for the under-25s could make up part of the “single biggest revenue investment” in the network since the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority was established, it has said.

The authority is considering bankrolling cheap journeys for youngsters to encourage them onto buses and “help with the cost of living crisis”.

Dr Nik Johnson, the Labour mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Nik Johnson, the Labour mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell

The scheme, which would initially run until May 2025, would be funded by some of the £3.85m in what it described as “headroom” on its books, as well as bus service improvement plan (BSIP) money from the government.

It would not be funded by the Combined Authority’s council tax precept that Labour mayor Nik Johnson wants to treble, which will be discussed alongside £1 bus fares at a Combined Authority board meeting on 31 January.

The precept, which could rise from £12 to £36 for Band D households if Dr Johnson gets his way, would help support services currently kept afloat by the Combined Authority, alongside improvements in bus stops and shelters.

Also coming to the board at the end of the month is a further debate on whether the Combined Authority should bring about bus franchising in the region or an “enhanced partnership” with existing bus companies.

The former option would see the authority decide bus routes, frequencies and fares, with profitable services subsidising others, while the latter option would give the authority greater influence over buses while still leaving many operational elements to private companies.

Both plans are currently being audited to help establish the better option, the Combined Authority says, and consultation will continue until summer this year.

Together, the Combined Authority believes the plans represent a major overhaul of transport in the region, helping it to deliver on both its bus strategy and local transport and connectivity plan.

But some members of the authority would like to see current plans around transport for young people go further.

“I think this is a brilliant start,” East Cambridgeshire district councillor Charlotte Cane (Lib Dem, Bottisham) said at a Combined Authority meeting. “However, I am slightly disappointed that it’s going to be capped at £1 per bus journey. From my local experience, most of our sixth form college students have to get at least two buses to school, so that’s still £20 a week.

“I’d like to see that this is a first stage towards something more comprehensive. I’d also like consideration in future to be given to all public transport, because, for some of our sixth form college students, it’s actually significantly more convenient to get there by train.”

Cllr Cane added that some sixth-form colleges are asking parents and pupils to consider how they will get to school at open days, while some businesses are asking young people how they will get to work in job interviews because public transport is known to be unreliable.

Cllr Cane noted the “explicitly stated” assumption in Combined Authority’s financial documents that the £1 scheme will not continue beyond 2025.

But she said: “I’d like to think that it won’t stop and that it’ll actually be further improved.”

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