Bus fares capped at £1 for the under 25s could make up part of the “single biggest revenue investment in our bus network since the Combined Authority was established”, the institution says. 

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), led by Labour politician Dr Nik Johnson, is considering bankrolling cheap journeys for youngsters to encourage them onto buses and “help with the cost of living crisis”. 

The scheme, which would initially run until May 2025, would be funded by some of the £3.85m in “headroom” the CPCA currently has on its books, it says, as well as bus service improvement plan (BSIP) money from the Government. 

It would not be funded by Dr Johnson’s bus precept, which appears on council tax bills, although this will be discussed alongside £1 bus fares at a CPCA board meeting on 31st January. 

The precept, which cost residents in Band D properties £12 last year, is likely to rise to £36 per year at this meeting, which the mayor says will help support services currently kept afloat by the CPCA and deliver improvements to bus stops and shelters. 

Also coming to the board on 31st is a further debate as to whether the CPCA should bring about bus franchising in the region or an “enhanced partnership” with existing bus companies.

The former option would see the authority decide bus routes, frequencies and fares, with profitable services subsidising others, while the latter option would give the authority greater influence over buses while still leaving many operation elements to private companies. 

Both plans are currently being audited to help establish the better option, the CPCA says, and consultation will continue until summer this year. 

Together, all of these plans represent a possible major overhaul of transport in the region, helping the authority deliver on both its bus strategy and ambitious local transport and connectivity plan. 

But some members of the authority would like to see current plans around transport for young people go further. 

“I think this is a brilliant start,” Cllr Charlotte Cane (Liberal Democrats, Bottisham) said at a CPCA meeting, “however, I am slightly disappointed that it’s going to be capped at £1 per bus journey. From my local experience, most of our sixth form college students have to get at least two buses to school, so that’s still £20 a week. 

“I’d like to see that this is a first stage towards something more comprehensive,” she continued. “I’d also like consideration in future to be given to all public transport, because, for some of our sixth form college students, it’s actually significantly more convenient to get there by train.” 

Cllr Cane added that some sixth form colleges are asking parents and pupils to consider how they’ll get to school at open days, while some businesses are asking young people how they’ll get to work in job interviews because public transport is known to be unreliable. 

As such, “I’d like to think that it won’t stop and that it’ll actually be further improved,” Cllr Cane said of the scheme, particularly given the “explicitly stated” assumption in CPCA financial documents that it won’t continue beyond 2025. 

More information about the scheme is expected ahead of CPCA’s next board meeting.