The pandemic meant significant reductions to bus service levels and passenger numbers.

The government stepped in by providing nearly £2 billion in emergency and recovery funding to keep vital bus services running.

Life is returning to normal. If we want a sustainable, reliable and affordable public transport system going forward, it’s time to climb back on board our buses. 

I’m pleased the government is taking proactive steps to increase patronage further by capping single fares at £2 on services in England outside London until 31st March 2023.

Buses can be expensive in rural areas like East Devon so it’s a welcome step. But I know from my postbag that passengers often complain to me about the lack of reliability of services, too.

I recently met with the new Managing Director of Stagecoach, Peter Knight, to discuss local services in East Devon and Exeter.

Last year was challenging. On some routes, buses did not turn up, they were often late, and the frequency of services was cut for some communities.

The biggest problem was recruitment and retention of bus drivers. At one point, Stagecoach had over 70 vacancies for drivers.

I’m pleased that the vast majority of these vacancies are now filled. Services are a lot more reliable as a result.

During my discussions with Stagecoach’s new boss, I highlighted concerns raised with me about Route 9 between Sidmouth and Honiton serving Sidbury, as well as the very early final service on Route 44 between Exeter and Ottery.

I know many people live and work along Route 57 between Exmouth and Exeter and I again pushed for the old 15-minute frequency to be reinstated.

Peter Knight has promised to review these services in detail and keep me updated.

If you have concerns about services in your area, please let me know and I'll take it up on your behalf.

Finally, Ministers will publish new regulations in Parliament soon that will require audible and visible information on local bus and coach services. That should guarantee all services are accessible to visually-impaired and hard-of-hearing passengers, which I know will be very welcome.