Council commits to providing more frequent and zero emission buses across Northampton and beyond

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West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has committed to providing more frequent services, enhanced routes and zero-emission vehicles in its latest strategy for local bus services.

To secure the release of grant funding from the Department for Transport (DfT), the local authority had to produce a refreshed 2024 Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) by June 12. The WNC cabinet approved a document containing the public transport goals for the county’s network at a meeting on June 11.

The Bus Service Improvement Plan sets out a ‘realistic and attractive’ plan of what will have been delivered by the end of 2024/25 and also sets out a ‘shop window’ of ambitions and proposals for future years. The council says all measures were informed by consultation feedback and network reviews.

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Councillor Phil Larratt, cabinet member for highways and transport, said that one of the biggest priorities was growing bus patronage, with a focus on supporting new and enhanced bus services to become financially viable in the future.

The council has submitted a final draft of its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to the Department for Transport to secure grant funding.The council has submitted a final draft of its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to the Department for Transport to secure grant funding.
The council has submitted a final draft of its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to the Department for Transport to secure grant funding.

Proposals set out for 2024/25 include:

  • Improving current bus network frequencies and operating times.
  • Creating enhanced and new bus routes.
  • Investigating improvements to market town, inter urban and cross boundary links.
  • Improving the awareness of the bus network to encourage more users.
  • Upgrading bus shelters for passengers.

Plans for 2025 – 2030 include:

  • Better partnership with bus operators.
  • Filling gaps in bus provision, responsive to new housing and employment areas.
  • Creating network consistency and providing enhanced ‘live’ information.
  • Tackling service disruption and helping buses through traffic congestion in key areas.

The BSIP only includes firm spending proposals up to the end of this financial year, using funding totalling just over £4 million. The council says future proposals past 2025 are unfunded but represent an “ambitious set of proposals” it would look to offer.

You can read the full document with the council’s proposals here.

The council’s bid to move to a greener bus fleet has also been successful. WNC has been awarded £9.35 million through the Zero Emission Bus Regional Allocation (ZEBRA) fund to purchase 51 electric buses, operating on 11 routes in Northampton.

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The zero-emission buses will be deployed from the Stagecoach depot in Far Cotton which will have 23 chargers installed. The new fleet has been ordered by the authority and is expected to be deployed in early 2026.

The project is expected to save 76,708 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and reduce nitrogen oxides emissions by 27 tonnes over a 17-year period. The government grant will require all of the buses purchased to be used in Northampton for at least five years.

The new public transport vehicles will meet the latest accessibility standards set by the government and will be an attractive and modern service compared to the current age profile of the Stagecoach fleet which is eight to 12 years old.

Cllr Larratt said it was a “fantastic project” for the town, which would reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and provide a better travel experience for passengers.