Alison Edwards on Recovery Partnerships 05/11/2020

CPT’s Head of Policy Alison Edwards writes about Recovery Partnerships – what they are, why they’re necessary, and how they can be achieved.

A lot has happened in the week since we launched our Recovery Partnerships document, most notable being that we now find ourselves in another national lockdown! However, one thing has certainly remained the same; we need to deliver a passenger-led recovery post Covid-19, and Recovery Partnerships are key to achieving this.

But what exactly is a Recovery Partnership?  In short, it’s an agreement between a bus operator(s) and Local Authority that enables them to decide how to deliver a bus network that suits the needs of passengers and delivers growth in passenger numbers. The rise in flexible working will lead to a fundamental change in the nature and character of city centres, and we need to make sure bus services adapt to support this.

We all know that bus travel has so many benefits on an individual and nationwide scale, including encouraging healthier lifestyles, helping to reach air quality targets, and delivering thriving local economies. A recent study showed 8 out of 10 people believe everyone should reduce their car use, and I believe that we are in a good position to encourage new people onto the bus. Operators and Local Authorities joined forces throughout the pandemic to make sure people could make their essential journeys, and RPs will build on their positive relationships to make improved bus services a reality.

Timing is key to making Recovery Partnerships a success. Too soon and we risk being unable to deliver the best service for passengers, but too late means a delay to delivering this best service. We recommend three tests being met before Recovery Partnerships are implemented – removal of social distancing, positive messaging around the use of public transport, and the return of a significant number of passengers. The circumstances of local areas must determine what initiatives are put in place, but could include targeted fare initiatives, support for existing bus links, funding for new services, and bus priority measures. An example of partnership working in action is the Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance, whose key achievements include increased passenger satisfaction, new buses, and more young people getting on board.

However, before implementing Recovery Partnerships we need backing from central government. This is why we are calling for £500m ringfenced funding to be set aside in the forthcoming spending review to help Recovery Partnerships get off the ground. Funding, combined with other initiatives such as investment in bus priority measures and a national marketing strategy, puts us in a strong position to deliver a passenger-led recovery.

To find out more about a passenger-led recovery, read our Recovery Partnerships document here.