In rural areas like the Forest of Dean, it is especially important that residents are provided with a high-quality road network and access to local buses, and this is something that I have always taken extremely seriously during my time as your Member of Parliament and more recently, as Secretary of State for Transport. In the last month, we have seen two key announcements from both the Government and Gloucestershire County Council that will help do just that.
First, on the 17th of November, I announced in my role as Transport Secretary that the Government will be redirecting £8.3 billion of funding previously earmarked for HS2 to resurface over 5,000 miles of road across the country over the next 11 years. On a local level, this means an extra £87.9 million to improve roads in Gloucestershire with £2.8 million in each of this year and next.
Gloucestershire County Council will be able to use their share of this funding to identify what local roads are in most need of repair and deliver immediate improvements for communities and residents. The County Council has already repaired over 20,000 smaller potholes ahead of schedule and will have resurfaced 220 roads by the end of the financial year.
Second, since the 1st of December 2023, fares on The Robin minibus service, run by Gloucestershire County Council, have been capped at £2.
The Robin is an on-demand minibus service that travels to users’ chosen destinations or links them with other public transport options. It has no fixed routes and uses innovative technology to group passengers together in real-time, with bookings taken anywhere from two weeks to an hour in advance. I had the pleasure of visiting The Robin earlier this year and spoke with some of its regular users.
Currently, an adult fare of up to seven miles costs £2.50 and a journey of over seven miles costs £4, but these will be reduced to £2. A child fare for up to a seven-mile journey will remain at £1.50, but for a journey of over seven miles, the price will be reduced from £3 to £2.
The costs will be recovered from my Department’s Bus Fare Cap Grant and will run until the 31st of December 2024.
This series of unprecedented investments will pave the way for better and safer journeys for many across the Forest of Dean, whether they travel by car or by bus. I hope that my constituents will see noticeable improvements to our road network over the coming months and also be encouraged to make use of The Robin service, which will soon be serving the entire Forest of Dean District.
This column was first published in The Forester newspaper.