Millions more bus journeys in the West Midlands following network investment

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The number of people catching the bus in the West Midlands has rocketed by almost eight million over the last year as major investment in the network continues, Transport for West Midlands has announced. Fare-busting initiatives and other incentives delivered through the West Midlands Bus Alliance mean passenger numbers were up to 267.1 million between March 2018 and March 2019, according to new government figures, up from 259.3 million during the previous 12 months.

The increase follows the introduction of low-fare zones and a decision to extend half-price travel to all 16-18-year-olds, benefitting up to 105,000 apprentices, students, trainees and those in work. National Express West Midlands has also announced a freeze on walk-on cash fares and many season tickets for the third year running in 2020.

The growth is not just a result of lower fares, said TfWM: Payment by mobile phone, the Swift travel card, contactless cards and live timetable apps are also making bus travel easier, whilst millions of pounds have been invested in highways and junctions, including the new Harborne bus lanes, to reduce bottlenecks and improve reliability of services.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “This large increase in bus passengers comes at a time when bus usage is in decline in many other towns and cities. I truly believe it is thanks to great innovations like low fare zones, half-price travel for more young people and smart ticketing, delivered with our Bus Alliance partners, that we are clearly making an impact with eight million more journeys last year.

“With confirmation that our largest operator National Express will be freezing the walk-on cash fares in 2020, buses will continue to provide good value for passengers. We have worked closely with National Express to freeze bus fares for three years running.”

Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council added: “With 267 million journeys, bus is by far the most popular form of public transport in the region and rightly we are backing buses with investment and innovation, such as mobile apps delivering live travel information.”