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South East seeks more express routes

LOCAL authorities in south-east England have called for government support in the form of revenue funding to enable the development of new express coach routes in the region.

At a regional bus summit in Oxford this month, local representatives backed proposals for two pilot schemes in the south east: one in the Thames Valley and one in Kent and Sussex.

"The government has shown its support for improved services in its announcement on the multi-modal studies earlier this year," regional planning committee Cllr Keith Mitchell told the Oxford bus summit. "However we will be looking to the government for an urgent review of the current revenue funding regime to help deliver these services."

A study undertaken by WS Atkins for the Government Office for the South East identified that there is potential for increased use of express buses and coaches, but said that the level of provision needed to improve first to realise it.

WS Atkins' report says that there may be a need for a future regional assembly to have tendering and monitoring powers to ensure the delivery of an effective express coach network to serve the south east: "Commercial operators are unlikely and unable to bring about a step change in coach provision and so a new delivery mechanism is needed to promote the development of the coach network and encourage patronage."

A proposal for a strategic coach authority was tested in the consultation carried out as part of WS Atkins' work. Whilst FirstGroup, Stagecoach and BAA supported this idea, CPT and National Express were opposed and preferred partnerships between interested parties rather than the establishment of a new body.

www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/regional_policies/transport/bus_summit/

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