CALLS have been made for Shropshire Council to more than double its funding for bus services as part of a drastic overhaul of public transport across the county.

A year-long study of the county’s bus operations has concluded that an urgent re-think of infrastructure, routes and ticket structures is required if there is to be any hope of cutting traffic and emissions by reducing reliance on cars.

The project, funded by the Foundation for Integrated Transport (FIT), has published its final report making six recommendations to Shropshire Council, including increasing its bus support budget from £2.8 million in 2018/19 to £6.39 million in 2021/22.

The report says the authority should adopt a ‘single ticket’ model similar to that seen in Cornwall, giving access to all bus services regardless of route or operator.

It also suggests an electric bus service is set up between Shrewsbury bus station and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, running every 10 minutes seven days a week.

A spokesperson for FIT said: “The project carried out a detailed examination of Shropshire’s bus services and concluded that there was considerable scope for improvement and that when improvements made on best practice are carried out thoroughly and consistently our buses will deliver important benefits that are already agreed Shropshire Council policy commitments.”

These include reducing carbon emissions, pollution and congestion, and give people, particularly those in rural areas, more freedom to choose how to make journeys.

It is further argued that a fit-for-purpose bus service would reduce short car journeys and render the proposed Shrewsbury North West Relief Road unnecessary. It says council funding allocated to the scheme – amounting to £17 million of the £71 million total plus any overspend – could then be spent elsewhere.

This could include, “a new bus station in Shrewsbury, much improved park and ride in Shrewsbury and Ludlow, real-time information systems for Shrewsbury and Ludlow bus services, a single-ticket offer covering all bus services in the county irrespective of which operator provides the service and much increased bus shelter provision”.

In the last few weeks Shropshire Council has revealed it does intend to overhaul Shrewsbury’s park and ride, though it says there are no plans for improvements to the Ludlow service. There are also plans to demolish the bus station as part of the regeneration of the Riverside area.

The bus project, directed by Shrewsbury resident Professor John Whitelegg, visiting professor of sustainable transport at Liverpool John Moores University, involved two public meetings in Highley and Craven Arms, discussions with councillors, town and parish councils, ‘bus champions’, and Shropshire’s three MPs, in order to gather insight and specific suggestions for improvements.

The report provides estimated costings for some of the suggestions, including £306,000 to reinstate the 141 service between Ludlow and Bridgnorth which it describes as a “key route”.

Other new routes could include a direct service from Craven Arms to Princess Royal Hospital or a direct service from West Felton to RSH, costing £335,000, and a bus connecting Bishop’s Castle to Craven Arms railway station priced at £260,000.

Extending the Meole Brace park and ride service out to Bayston Hill was another suggestion put forward by locals, and the study estimates this would cost £36,000.

A need for better connections to Ellesmere has also been identified, with a new service running between Overton, Ellesmere and Whitchurch in a ‘V’ shape estimated at £260,000.

The report recommends the council invites bids from town and parish councils for projects such as these, and “use this increased level of funding to adopt a rolling programme of improvement based on the bids over the next 10 years”.

Prof Whitelegg said: “Buses in Shropshire urgently need a serious upgrade.

“They can contribute significantly to dealing with climate change, reducing congestion and improving public health.

“The costs of doing this are much less than the costs of not doing this and it is time that Shropshire embraced the need and the urgency for an upgrade and deliver a 21st century bus service for 350,000 people.”

Shropshire Council has been asked to comment.