National Bus Strategy: England

– in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 5:06 pm, 15th March 2021

I would like to make a statement about bus services. Britain is often described as a railway nation, but if we have a national form of public transport, it is definitely the bus, carrying more than 4 billion passengers a year in England—more than twice as many as rail—over a vast network. No other type of public transport comes close for convenience, affordability and popularity. If anyone needs persuading of the bus’s value, surely the 2020 experience has provided us with the evidence we need. Without buses operating day and night, many key workers would have been unable to get to work, so we owe a debt of gratitude to the bus industry and, in particular, to the magnificent bus drivers for keeping this country moving.

Covid has shown that buses provide Britain with far more than just a means of travel. There are a lifeline for millions. In normal times, they help students to get to college, they help those without work to attend job interviews, they help the elderly to get to the shops and they help us all to get about. They are crucial for the survival of our high streets, for rural businesses and for the planet, too. For many disabled people, they can be an accessible way to stay mobile. In all these ways, buses are not just an industry but almost a social service. Fundamentally, they help us to level up the country.

Buses can and should also be the transport of choice, in my view. London, Brighton and Harrogate have already proved this, with frequent modern services and dedicated lanes attracting millions of journeys a year from the private car. We want to do that everywhere throughout the country, yet in most regions outside London services have been in decline for decades. Successive Governments before this one have failed to prioritise buses, either with sufficient investment or with a workable plan. That is why this Government are taking action to revitalise bus services, and why today we have published the national bus strategy for England outside of London, with its bold vision for the industry to reform the way it has managed to deliver tangible benefits for passengers, and this is all backed by £3 billion of Government investment.

Covid has hit the bus sector hard, as it has all transport, but it is also provided an opportunity to put better bus services at the heart of the community. Throughout 2020, bus companies and councils have had to co-operate as never before to keep services running for key workers. Now we want to harness the same sense of partnership and change the way the industry fundamentally works by putting the passenger and the environment first.

Passengers want simpler fares, more routes and services, easier information and greener buses, and this bus strategy reflects people’s lives. In cities and towns, this means that travelling when we want and where we want becomes easy to do on a bus. We expect councils and operators to bring in simple, cheap flat fares with contactless payment by card or by phone. Up-to-date information should be available immediately on our phones, on board the buses and at bus stops. We want closer integration of services and ticketing across all forms of public transport, so that people can seamlessly travel from buses to trams to trains and we end the absurd situation where different operators do not recognise or accept each other’s tickets. We want to have much more of the “turn up and go” type of service—the kind of frequency that means you do not even have to look at the timetable before you get on the bus—and more services in the evening and at weekends.

In rural areas and out-of-town business parks, we sometimes need to be able to provide buses that are available on demand from an app on your phone. Today, I am pleased to announce £20 million of investment from our rural mobility fund to trial on-demand services in 17 different locations, including minibuses booked via an app that people pick near their home at a time that is convenient to them.

I want anyone who happens to be disabled to be able to confidently travel when and where they want, so this bus strategy will make sure that all local services have audible and visible “next stop” announcements. We will consult this year on improving access to wheelchair space and priority seating for those who rely on them. A series of new bus passenger charters will define precisely what all bus users can expect in their particular areas.

Before covid, the way in which buses were organised made it hard to arrest the decline in bus ridership—a decline that has been going on since the 1960s. The pandemic has brought councils and the industry together, and we want every local transport authority in the country and its bus operators to be in statutory enhanced partnerships or in franchising arrangements throughout. The franchising system is used in London. For example, Transport for London sets the routes and the fares, but that will not be appropriate everywhere. That is why enhanced partnerships will be required, whereby the operators and the councils reach negotiated agreements on how buses will run, with local authorities taking greater responsibility for bus services, whichever solution they choose.

By 30 June this year, we want all local authorities to commit to one of those two options, with the bus operators’ support. We will need that commitment if they are to receive further emergency funding from the covid bus services support grant. I can confidently predict that they will all be on board. Local authorities, in collaboration with operators, will then produce bus service improvement plans by the end of October this year.

These plans are pretty ambitious. By looking at the best bus services around the world and striving to match them, we expect to see how bus priority can best work without increasing congestion. We want to create plans for fares and ticketing, and we want to see how they will deliver urban, town and rural users to the bus network. Future Government financial support will depend on local authorities and operators coming together under an enhanced partnership or franchising agreement. For our part, we will work with councils to introduce bus priority schemes this year, and we will roll out marketing to attract millions of new passengers to the network—people who have never used buses before.

The strategy also sets out our road map to a zero-emission bus fleet. Bus operators have invested £1.3 billion in greener buses over the last five years, which has been supported by £89 million of Government investment, and we will commit to delivering 4,000 zero-emission buses. I expect to release funding for the first all-electric bus city very soon. However, only 2% of England’s bus fleet is fully zero-emission today, so after our historic move to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, this bus strategy sets out our plans to end the sale of new diesel buses in England too. We have launched a consultation to decide how and when that will happen.

This strategy marks a new beginning for buses. We will not only stop the decline that has been going on historically for decade after decade; we want to reverse it by making buses a natural choice for everyone, not just for those without any other travel options, and we want to put the passenger first. We want to build the stronger road partnerships that I have been talking about by channelling £3 billion into better services. Such a sum has never been seen before in respect of bus investment and will help us to transform buses throughout England and, by doing so, to transform our country, too. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 5:15 pm, 15th March 2021

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I also thank those in the bus and local public transport industries for the work they have done, over the course of a very difficult year, to make sure that our country can keep on moving.

This strategy should have been used to revolutionise the bus industry, but I am afraid it lacks ambition and does not even touch the sides of the cuts and rocketing prices that passengers have witnessed over the past decade. It should have been used to ensure that funds were properly directed to deliver a radical transition to a zero-emission fleet—something that the Prime Minister promised more than a year ago—and to create new green jobs in the bus and coach sector, to give operators and manufacturers the boost that they so badly need.

Let us look beyond the headlines. The Secretary of State says that he wants buses to become more frequent, cheaper and greener. First, on buses being more frequent, the reality is that this Government have overseen the loss of 134 million miles of bus routes over the past decade, and some 3,000 local authority-supported bus services have been cut over the same period. In every year since 2010—year on year—passenger journeys outside of London have fallen. It is the Secretary of State’s Government who have made bus journeys less frequent in the first place. How will he ensure, specifically, that there are not just a few more services on routes that are already well served, but a reversal of the 3,000 bus cuts that we have seen over the past decade? How many of the 134 million bus miles lost will be returned by this investment?

On the second test, in respect of buses being cheaper, the Office for National Statistics has reported that in January bus inflation was up by 21% on the previous year. Although a price cap is welcome, the cost of transport is already forcing people off buses. What will the Secretary of State do to make sure not just that fares will not rise disproportionately in future, but that they will be brought down to a reasonable level that people can afford, so that they will choose to travel by bus?

The final test is for transport to be greener. It is more than a year since the Government promised 4,000 zero-emission buses, but they have not even started yet. That is nowhere near ambitious enough when we consider that there are 32,000 buses in England alone. Even with a one-to-one replacement, that could leave more than 28,000 buses that are not zero-emission. Incidentally, many of them will be serving areas that are being considered for clean air zones because of deadly levels of pollution.

It is a year since we were promised a transport revolution, and it has been a year of reannouncements. Although the pandemic can be blamed for some of the fall in passenger numbers we have seen, the Secretary of State knows full well that the past decade has really weakened the foundations of bus services in this country.

Let me turn to another announcement: council and operator partnerships. Councils throughout the country face a budget black hole of £15 billion, and this announcement, which throws in even more responsibility without funding in place, could weaken their position even further. Like many, I back the extension of London-style franchise powers throughout the country, and I sincerely hope that once the announcement is put into practice, that will be the reality for passengers throughout the country. I also support councils that want to do it themselves, which is why we back the establishment of municipal bus companies—incidentally, something outlawed by this Government in 2017. The Government have indicated that that may well be revisited, but my question to the Secretary of State is, why wait?

It is clear that we drastically need a bus service that is fit for the future, yet until we see those measures on the ground we cannot even begin to claim to be ambitious and to have a green bus strategy that meets the demands of local people and the immediate post-pandemic needs of the industry, or that addresses the huge challenge of stopping climate change and meeting our objectives. The real legacy of this Government is laid bare for all to see: the loss of key routes; rocketing ticket prices; and just 2% of the bus fleet zero-emission vehicles. It is on that record that the Government will be judged.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

Predictably, the hon. Gentleman is not entirely satisfied. He said that the investment should have been bigger and that we should have been investing more in zero carbon, and he criticised many other aspects of the strategy. In fact, we did not even need to wait for the bus strategy, because he issued his press release to tell us all this ahead of time—before the strategy was even out and before he could possibly have known what was in it. I hope that he has now had the opportunity to read it. If he has, he will have seen that it is an extremely ambitious plan. It is the most ambitious plan to change our buses from any Government right the way back to the 1980s.

It is not as if the 1980s were the start of the decline; I think I am right in saying that we saw a decline in bus ridership from the ’60s onwards, from about 15.5 billion down to 5.5 billion. We know that people have switched to cars in that period of time, which is why this bus strategy is so ambitious and is trying to hold no punches in saying, “We need to realign the way we operate. We need to ensure that buses are more convenient and therefore more reliable. When they are, people are much more likely to take them.” As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, that is a formula that has operated very well in London under successive Mayors—although, I must say, it was expanded under the previous one—and has ensured that buses are clean and reliable, and that people do not even need a timetable. He asked about the reliability and regularity of services; that is what we want to get to. We also would not be putting £3 billion in if we did not expect, as the bus strategy says, to make buses more affordable. It is central to our vision that they are not just practical, but the affordable means of transport.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman said about greening up the bus network. I am as enthusiastic as him; he knows that I am—I drive an electric car and I want to see our transport system decarbonised. He mentioned that we announced a year ago our ambition to have 4,000 electric buses. He is absolutely right that that is what we wrote in our manifesto. As he would expect, we are delivering on that. The £120 million mentioned in the bus strategy today will go towards the first 800 of those buses. That comes on top of money that has already been invested by the industry in creating more electric buses. We are starting to see those buses on the road, including—I think I am right in saying—a couple of thousand in London, as well as elsewhere in the country. It is starting to happen and we are going to ensure that we meet our manifesto commitment of delivering 4,000 by the end of this Parliament.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman mentioned municipal bus services. I am not living in some world where I think there is only one way to do this. That is why we are talking about bus franchising and enhanced partnerships. He will be interested to know that the service in my area, though not a municipal bus operation, is actually run by the local university, the University of Hertfordshire, which owns a bus company called Uno. That is the kind of creative idea that we want to see developed by the national bus strategy. The hon. Gentleman’s local authority, every other local authority and all Members in this House will have the opportunity to ensure that their local area is able to deliver against the bus strategy to improve services for everybody in a way of which he would approve.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

I warmly welcome the bus strategy, and thank the Secretary of State and the Buses Minister, Baroness Vere, for taking ideas in. The Secretary of State is right to look at best practice by local authorities; he mentioned Brighton. What can we do to ensure that best practice becomes normal practice, and what more investment can be given to local authorities to ensure that there is a buses champion in each local transport authority?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend’s contribution to this debate, not just with the point he has just made in this Chamber, but in his work with the Transport Committee in pushing for a bus strategy, which we are proud to deliver today. He asked specifically about how he can shape that and about local authorities. We are giving £25 million to local authorities to come up with this plan by 31 October, and we expect every local authority in the country to be part of that. Not only that, but we want Members in this House to work with their local authorities, as I have done with the Beeching reversal plan, which has been very popular. MPs have helped to lead that, and I expect that my hon. Friend will want to do that in his area as well.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

Let me start by thanking the Secretary of State for prior sight of his statement, and by welcoming both the tacit admission that decades of bus deregulation has failed and the long awaited publication of the national bus strategy for England, which the Prime Minister has billed as a revolution. The only problem is that revolutions are usually fairly quick affairs, whereas we have been waiting a year for this strategy and it might take another year for the various consultations to run their course.

Bus services are, of course, devolved, but as I have said many times in this place, the bus manufacturing sector is on its knees—hundreds of jobs have already gone. We are lucky to have three world-class bus manufacturing companies in Switch, Wrightbus and, in particular, Alexander Dennis, but we have yet to see a penny of the £3 billion committed last spring, and in the past 12 months almost no zero-emission buses have been delivered outside London or Scotland. Very shortly, there will be more zero-emission buses in the town of Kilmarnock than anywhere outside London. The Scottish Government have gone on with the job, with their Scottish ultra-low emission bus schemes, which are extremely popular with both operators and manufacturers. With those schemes having shown just how quickly domestic demand for new, green, British-built vehicles can be stimulated in the about six-month lead time for manufacturing, how will the Government ensure that their commitment to 4,000 green buses actually results in new vehicles being delivered this calendar year, not next year or the year after?

The Prime Minister spoke of getting young people on to buses, an aspiration shared by the Scottish Government, who have just committed to providing free bus transport to all under-22s as part of a plan to encourage lifelong public transport habits—that is action, not words. Will the Minister commit to a similar policy in England? Scotland has led the way in transport decarbonisation in the UK, but we must do more, so will he confirm that 100% of the funding provided for the strategy will be Barnettised? Will he put a precise figure and timescale on it?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I welcome what I think was a warm welcome to the idea of the English bus strategy. With all these things, I like to work in co-operation and make them work for the whole of the United Kingdom. That is why, for example, I put money into dustcarts in Glasgow that are hydrogen-run. I believe there are a dozen of them doing fantastic work and helping to develop the hydrogen economy. It is not quite as straightforward as the hon. Gentleman makes out; we all know that we can produce a hydrogen vehicle, but we also have to produce the hydrogen in a green enough way so that it is not in itself a polluting activity. A whole supply line is required for that, which is why in England I have assigned Teesside as the first hydrogen hub in the country, in order to help bring all those technologies together for all the different forms of transport.

I want to answer one question directly: the Barnett formula is attached to this, and the moneys will flow from that in the normal way.

Photo of Imran Ahmad Khan Imran Ahmad Khan Conservative, Wakefield

I warmly welcome the Government’s ambitious new bus strategy, which will be critical in improving West Yorkshire’s connectivity. A key issue facing Wakefield is the lack of a unified bus franchise; the main bus services to Huddersfield are run by Yorkshire Tiger, a different franchise from Arriva’s Metro franchise, which is the main operator in Wakefield, and this means that tickets are not transferable. I know our fantastic West Yorkshire mayoral candidate Matt Robinson is championing this issue. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outline what steps will be taken to unify these bus franchises and provide West Yorkshire with an integrated, London-style bus system?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, as is Matt Robinson. People want to be able to jump on a bus, jump off another one and get on a third one, regardless of which company happens to be running them, and for them to be integrated with rail services and, where relevant, trams as well. That is very much at the heart of our plan. He will be pleased to learn that the bus strategy requires and insists that local authorities come up with a plan that allows people to buy a ticket that they can use many times, with a cap so that they are not overcharged for making many journeys.

Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

Like other Members, I welcome the release of “Bus Back Better” and many of the provisions contained in it, but why does the Secretary of State commit himself to review only the part of the Bus Services Act 2017 that prohibits local authority ownership when the strategy highlights so many great examples of good practice? Why can he not go further and scrap those provisions?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I welcome the hon. Lady’s welcoming the strategy. She mentions the Bus Services Act 2017 and—we have already had an exchange on this—the extent to which local authorities can run bus services. She should know that I do not mind who runs these services: I just want them to run properly. I want passengers to be able to get the buses when they need them, where they need them, and as efficiently as possible. I will look at all these matters in the context of what delivers the best services, and nothing else.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Education)

As chair of the all-party motor group, which includes responsibility for all vehicle manufacturers, I am concerned about the UK bus and coach industry, including companies such as Alexander Dennis and Wrightbus. The sector has seen a loss of 1,000 jobs in the past year. Why has it taken so long to introduce this plan, given that it is almost four years since I drove an electric bus here in Warwick and Leamington at the headquarters of Volvo Bus and Coach Sales? The products were there four years ago—why have they not been adopted earlier?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

Like the hon. Gentleman, I am a keen follower of electric technology, particularly in the heavier vehicles. Although electric cars have proved themselves and we are seeing a large number on the road, bigger vehicles still have issues of weight of battery versus range and therefore availability, so in part it is the technological side that needs resolving. A lot of money is being invested in zero-carbon buses—we are not saying that they have to be electric or hydrogen. I think he will be very pleased to hear the zero-carbon city announcements that I will be making shortly.

Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

I very much welcome the bus strategy, which will make a huge difference to rural communities such as Penrith and The Border. Rural buses are a lifeline to many as they are so important for connecting communities in our large geographical area. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that Cumbria County Council makes full use of these Government funds and should work together with bus operators to make more routes viable and improve our local services, thereby assisting in the fight against rural isolation?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. He will be interested to hear that part of this strategy is £20 million for rural bus services to try out different approaches. I am pleased to say that of the 17 local authorities that are being provided with some of that money, Cumbria County Council is due to get £1.5 million. I hope that he will work with it to deliver better services for all his constituents.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

I welcome any strategy that will continue to support buses. I also welcome the Secretary of State’s mentioning Brighton several times. Brighton & Hove Buses might be in private hands but it is still run with the ethos of a municipal bus service. We would love to have a hydrogen hub in our area, in either the port of Newhaven or Shoreham. Can he reassure me about cross-border services and ensure that there is a duty for local authorities to co-operate so that pricing does not jump about and we can have through pricing between authorities?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Gentleman makes good points. I am very keen that crossing over some usually totally invisible line between one local authority and the other does not mean that the service stops and tickets run out. He is absolutely right. I will be paying special attention to that issue in various different local authorities’ plans in October.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement. Earlier in this Parliament, working with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other Conservative colleagues, we secured funding to save the X41 bus service running between Ramsbottom and central Manchester. Will he confirm that Bury Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and bus operators will have access to further moneys and support under this strategy, ensuring that everyone in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington have access to high-class bus services together with an increased number of routes?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I can certainly confirm that this bus strategy is very much in line with the type of thing that my hon. Friend and his residents in Ramsbottom and elsewhere want to see happen with the X41 bus. It is very important that we join all this back together, and that people can reliably get these buses in the evening, back out of towns and cities to the more outlying areas. I do not think that he will be disappointed with what he reads today.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee

I welcome many aspects of this statement today and say to the Secretary of State that he has effectively delivered the obituary for the failed deregulation of bus services outside London. Given that there will be a local choice between enhanced partnerships and franchising, will he look at trying to remove some of the time-consuming barriers to getting that franchising that local transport authorities have to go through? Finally, when it comes to reforming the grant system, will he ensure that the money is actually paid to the local transport authorities so that it can be spent in line with local priorities?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

Let me take that in reverse order. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that there are times when it would make a lot more sense for the money to go to the local authorities. However, for the sake of speed during this crisis, I have not wanted to add further complications, as the bus support grant has been literally a lifeline to various areas. This strategy will enable more work on the suggestions that he makes. With regard to franchising, and on his first point, we can talk about what happened in 1986, some 37 years ago, or we can talk about the future. This bus strategy and I want to talk about the future.

Photo of Simon Jupp Simon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

I welcome the steps outlined in the bus strategy to help operators and local authorities deliver frequent, more reliable, easier-to-use services. More comprehensive bus services will be needed, especially in rural areas such as East Devon, to protect both socially necessary and economically necessary routes and services. What plans does my right hon. Friend have to help people get the bus to work any time of day?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is right to point out that, particularly in rural areas such as East Devon and in many other parts of the country, the social value of a route is often missed by the current formulas. That is one reason why, with this bus strategy, we have launched a £20 million fund to develop rural services that work better. A lot of that is about making sure that, to have that certainty, the service is more regular and is funded, even at times when it requires public support to be funded. There are other innovative ideas, including, for example, having buses available on demand. People are used to using an app to call a taxi. Why should they not be able to do that to have a bus route go via them in order to get to where they want to go? There are many very innovative ideas, which will be very applicable in rural areas as well.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

As the Member of Parliament whose constituency includes the Wrightbus factory, which has carried out pioneering work—it was the first to produce the hydrogen bus for the UK and the battery diesel bus—I have been pushing the Prime Minister on this for some time. I welcome the statement and the plans to buy British-made buses, but there are many shovel-ready projects available for zero-emission buses across the UK. Under the current plans, the roll-out will not be until 2022? What are we waiting for? Why cannot we get on with it? I hope that the Secretary of State will tell his officials that they have a mission to get this money out the door, to get it into shovel-ready projects, and to buy British buses without any further delay.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I share the hon. Gentleman’s impatience, but the money is for this year. That £120 million for those zero-carbon buses is to be spent on the introduction of those first buses for this year, so I do not recognise any particular reason to delay. We are in touch with all the bus manufacturers, and we wish them well in their progress.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham

I warmly welcome the national bus strategy as another key spoke of the levelling up agenda alongside lifelong learning, the levelling-up fund and transport more generally. This is really about delivery, not dogma, and I am glad to see the options available for local authorities as well as the integrated and social nature of some of the funding available. Will the Secretary of State assure me that he will look at services in places in my constituency such as Burnhope and Weardale, which really need extra bus services later in the evenings, for potential pilot schemes?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

One of the biggest points about buses is that people want to be able to get them in the evening and at the weekend. When people go somewhere to meet with somebody—those days will come again—buses should not just stop so they cannot get a bus home. That is exactly when they are needed to run. There is new hope for my hon. Friend’s constituents in Burnhope and Weardale in this bus strategy.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Spending on bus services in London is £60 higher per person than it is in South Yorkshire, where we have seen funding fall by 40% in the last decade. Any strategy is welcome, but what we really need is investment. What funding can our region expect and by when?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. That is almost the fundamental point of the strategy. We recognise that London gets fantastic bus services, and we want the rest of the country to get some of it as well. The share is of £3 billion. I cannot give her the precise figures today, but I look forward to her local authority’s doing the work and coming back to me. By October, we should have numbers to talk about.

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

I am hugely excited about the opportunities that today’s announcement bring. However, when I have previously shared initiatives from the Department for Transport, the comments page underneath has said something along the lines of, “I’d settle for a bus from Hesketh Bank to Tarleton.” Will the Secretary of State give me and the people of South Ribble the confidence that communities, businesses, educational establishments and industry will be able to input their needs to transform Lancashire’s bus services?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

That is absolutely right. I will say how I want this to work. I want Members in this House to have real input into it. Therefore, as a plan is being developed by a local authority, MPs should be on the authority’s shoulders, looking over and making sure that the new business park is included—or indeed anybody who lives in Hesketh Bank and Tarleton—to ensure that they get their services. It will be for local Members to ensure that that happens.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

The north-east has suffered from under-investment in transport for too long. In 2019, it was revealed that over £3,600 of spend was planned per head for London and just over £500 per head for the north-east. The Prime Minister has said the strategy is an act of levelling up, but we know that phrase is a smokescreen for gifting money to areas that do not need it but happen to have a Tory MP. Will the Secretary of State tell us what criteria will be applied to ensure that this £3 billion is shared fairly among our regions?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

First of all, I agree, and I just said, that London has been getting a very nice bite of the cherry with its buses, and we want the rest of the country to get the same. That is the point of launching this strategy. I am afraid that I do not recognise the second point that the hon. Member made. She may be getting confused by the fact that hard-working great MPs who lobby for their local areas may just end up being successful in bringing services to their area. I have no doubt that she will join her area to that list as well.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

Many rural communities rely on bus services provided by small, often family-run businesses such as Stanley Travel in my constituency, who have found it hard during covid because they do not have the resource to capital that some larger companies have. What specific help will be available to such companies to ensure that they not only survive but that those important local bus services continue?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. As ever with the coronavirus, those small companies have had a tough time. It is worth mentioning that we put £240 million, and then £27 million a week, into supporting buses, so we have been pumping in a lot of money without which those services would not have been able to survive at all. Of course, individual smaller companies will have had access to things like furlough. The strategy overall is the sunlight at the end of this, because for the first time there will be a proper strategy that he and his local authority will be able to oversee. I am sure that there will be great opportunities for some of the smaller bus companies as well.

Photo of James Wild James Wild Conservative, North West Norfolk

Buses provide a lifeline for people in North West Norfolk, but rural areas have seen greater reductions in services. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that Norfolk gets a fair share of this welcome new funding to not only rebuild but enhance services, with later buses and new links, as well as capital for improvements to speed up journeys alongside the coast?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

Yes I will. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will fight for his constituents and his area. By hooking up with the local authority and working with it, we will have a very good look at the investment strategy that it puts together to ensure that he enjoys much better services in the future than his constituents have in the past.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. We will have a short suspension to make arrangements for the next business.

Sitting suspended.