People with disabilities fear being left behind by £150m boost for bus services

Rishi Sunak, pictured at the recent Tory party conference, has announced a national increase in bus funding with the money that would have been used to fund HS2. Credit: PA

By ITV News Journalist Zane Hogan

Rishi Sunak has announced that he is delivering a "fairer and improved transport system" by allocating £150 million into bus services nationally, as the first stage of his "Network North" plan.

However, those with disabilities fear being left behind, with no promises that funding will be used to improve accessibility.

The finances come directly from the scrapping of the northern leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester and could mean the reintroduction of evening services, increasing the frequency of busy buses, and connecting more areas.

The government has also confirmed the extension of the £2 cap on bus fares until 2024.

Whilst increased funding has been well received by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, who said it was "such good news for passengers" - there are concerns elsewhere.

Both the government and local bus transport operators cannot guarantee how the money granted will be allocated and further questions remain as to whether the loss of high speed rail travel can even be replaced with increased bus routes.

This comes as a key worry for people with disabilities, including disability rights campaigner and frequent bus user - Cameron Wood.

Cameron, from Hereford, who lives with Cerebral Palsy and Hydrocephalus, believes that whilst the government's announcement of increased funding is a step in the right direction, investment may not be allocated to improving accessibility.

Speaking about the new increased funding, Cameron said: "I do think it's a good announcement and I'm pleased it has come, but this money does need to be used in the right way because if it is not, it's going to make the situation worse for us.

"What they really need to do is look at putting the money into driver training around disability, or even bringing in better and bigger buses so that more wheelchairs can fit onto them."

"In Hereford, I've been left at bus stops because there have already been pushchairs and wheelchairs on buses, meaning that the driver cannot physically get me on the bus."

"So if they make bigger buses, that will then mean that more wheelchairs can get around."

ITV News has approached the Department for Transport for a response.

However, Section 98 of the Government's Bus Service Important Plan does specify: "Buses should offer end-to-end accessibility and provide ample areas for pushchairs and luggage in addition to the wheelchair space, so that everybody can travel with confidence".

So how much money is my region getting?

West Midlands:

  • Herefordshire Council- £1,064,000

  • Shropshire Council- £1,840,000

  • Staffordshire County Council- £4,982,000

  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council- £1,469,000

  • Warwickshire County Council- £3,394,000

  • West Midlands Combined Authority- £16,604,000

  • Worcestershire County Council- £3,433,000

East Midlands:

  • Derby City Council- £1,486,000

  • Derbyshire County Council- £4,519,000

  • Leicester City Council- £2,096,000

  • Leicestershire County Council- £4,051,000

  • Lincolnshire County Council- £4,370,000

  • Nottingham City Council- £1,840,000

  • Nottinghamshire County Council- £4,691,000

  • North Northamptonshire Council- £2,045,000

  • West Northamptonshire Council- £2,421,000

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