Funding available for community groups to design and run their own public transport

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Community groups are invited to apply for a share of funding to design and run their own public transport thanks to a £2 million fund called WESTlocal.   

Set up by North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority as part of the region’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, community groups are encouraged to apply for a portion of WESTlocal funding to set up and run their own not-for-profit public transport tailored to meet community needs. 

Transport can be anything from buses with regular fixed routes and timetables to flexible minibus services, helping communities to travel to key locations such as places of employment, supermarkets, shopping centres, local towns and transport interchanges.  

WESTlocal is open to applications from a wide range of groups, including community groups, schools, faith groups, and town and parish councils.  

You can put forward proposals for very local individual ideas or work together with others as part of a wider group submission. You may wish to work with an established bus or community transport operator, or to set up an independent community transport operation. 

The funding will last until March 2026 only, so is targeted at schemes that have the highest chance of long-term financial viability. 

More information can be found here: travelwest.info/projects/westlocal/  

No prior knowledge of running a transport scheme is needed. Simply submit an initial expression of interest form and a member of the team will be in touch to discuss ideas and talk you through the next stages. 

To complete an expression of interest form visit WESTlocal - Travelwest. The deadline for funding applications is the end of April 2024, but we encourage you to get in touch as soon as possible with your initial ideas so that we can support you in developing a full proposal. 

Help is available at each step of the way, including through partners such as the Community Transport Association. 

Successful ideas will be designed locally with clear involvement from the wider community (beyond current transport providers).  

The scheme should also be open to a wide range of people, rather than targeted at the transport needs of a specific community group or selection of individuals. 

Cllr Hannah Young, Executive Member for Highways and Transport at North Somerset Council, said:   

“This WESTlocal funding gives individual communities the power to design the public transport solutions that will best meet their local needs. I’m pleased that through our Bus Service Improvement Plan we can now offer this opportunity to fill gaps in the public transport network and connect people to key services.  

“With a dedicated team available to support any applications, I would urge local communities to consider how their public transport network could be improved and use this innovative Bus Service Improvement Plan funding to enhance your area.” 

UK Government Roads Minister Guy Opperman said: “Local people deserve a modern, reliable, and affordable public transport system and I'm delighted to have worked alongside the local council and local MPs to give North Somerset and the West of England over £105 million to boost its bus services.                      

“Part of our £2 billion to improve bus services in England, this is a fantastic result for passengers across North Somerset who will now have more say and control over the local public transport network, helping passengers get around more easily and with greater peace of mind.” 

WESTlocal is part of the region’s Bus Improvement Service Plan (BSIP). Bus travel across the West of England Combined Authority and North Somerset area will become faster, more convenient, coordinated and better for the environment and your pocket than running a car. 

The West of England received over £105 million from the Department for Transport to improve bus services by 2025. 

Working in partnership, North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority want to encourage everyone to ‘walk or wheel’ where possible, helping to reach a carbon neutral goal by 2030. When that’s not possible, bus travel is encouraged to be the first choice over car usage, helping to ease traffic congestion and creating a greener way to travel.