Despite cuts to services, council spends £400,000 to “educate” people on how to use buses

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Around £400,000 will be spent on promotional and marketing activities to “educate” people on how to use buses in Hampshire.

The spending will also include training people who feel uncomfortable using public transport and free bus services on weekends in some areas of the county.

The funding comes from the £7.16 million Bus Service Improvement Plan+ (BSIP+) grant that Hampshire County Council received from the government in May 2023.

The plan aims to transform bus services in England by making them more attractive, convenient and affordable, with Hampshire County Council handed £7,158,924.

It is a one-off over two years and must be spent on improving bus services and passenger facilities and promoting the bus network.

Later, in September 2023, the executive lead member for universal services considered a report on how the BSIP + funding would be spent, with six broad areas for investment, one of which was to deliver multi-operator promotional campaigns to promote bus use.

The procedure for allocating the areas of spending was approved in January 2024.

Of the £7.16 million, it was approved to spend £200,000 for “non-bus user education, roadshow and marketing initiatives” and a further £200,000 for “fares initiatives” that would complement the £2 capped single fare initiative that the government is funding until 31 December 2024.

County council officers said the campaign will try to encourage people to use the bus service and to make them more confident.

The campaign will include short videos that will “educate” and show “how to use the bus” as well as training for those who are uncomfortable using public transport.

As part of the proposal, the “Our Bus” campaign, delivered by the council, Bluestar, First Solent and Stagecoach, will be extended, and “free bus” Saturdays or weekends in several areas of Hampshire will be included.

The free weekend travel initiatives are proposed to operate across Hampshire but based on specific town networks, such as the Basingstoke, Andover, and Winchester areas. However, it has yet to be confirmed which areas.

Council officers said: “It’s all about getting more people to try and use public transport to become more regular bus users, and hopefully, as that’s the continued progress of getting people back on buses after Covid.”

According to the report, on the busiest bus routes in Hampshire that have bus services running every 20 minutes or more, the number of bus passengers carried has now returned to or exceeded the number of passengers using them before the pandemic. However, in less attractive routes, numbers still need to recover fully.

Of the BSIP+ funding, around £100,000 would be used to provide travel training, around £50,000 to develop promotional videos targeting young people, and £50,000 to create and share “how-to” videos.

Executive lead member for universal services, Councillor Nick Adams-King, said: “This offers a great opportunity for us to highlight that actually there are some pretty good bus corridors around the county that offer some really good connectivity.

“Clearly, with two pounds a journey, it’s a lot cheaper to go some places than to take your car and park. So it’s worth pushing up with people.”

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