Going ‘Above and Beyond’ Bus

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Buses really are the backbone of Britain, delivering vital economic, environmental and social benefits in the communities they serve. One of the safest public spaces you could be during the pandemic, they now stand ready to help us all bounce back fitter and healthier as one of the three pillars of active travel, alongside walking and cycling. When you consider the shocking statistics that every year, we lose as many people due to a variety of health conditions caused by poor air quality as we have done to Covid-19 during the last year, it underlines the importance of making healthier choices in the future.

But the potential of bus to do so much more is not limited simply to moving people in a more healthy way, my role as Head of Innovation Strategy at Brighton & Hove and Metrobus has given me the freedom to collaborate with a number of our key stakeholders on a new level. For example, an invitation to take part in a discussion about the potential for a Park & Ride service to support businesses in Crawley’s Manor Royal Business District a few years ago led to the formation by the Business Improvement District to set up a Transport Group to better understand the causes of the increasing traffic congestion and under supply of parking spaces – a situation so out of control, some businesses were paying up to £1,200 per space per year to provide staff parking in neighbouring business’s car parks.


This Transport Group and the willingness of everyone who took part set a new standard of partnership with the realisation that a Park & Ride service would only have recycled the problem and focussed more gridlock in one place. When they realised that a staggering 40% of local employees lived within just a four minute walk of a ‘Fastway BRT’ bus stop, served by one of the most frequent 24 hour bus services in the country, thoughts shifted to a new approach to deal with the problem.

This has led to Metrobus becoming a key partner alongside councils, the Manor Royal Business Improvement District and Coast 2 Capital Local Enterprise Partnership. The Crawley Growth Fund project co-ordinated by the LEP is seeing the complete refresh of much of the town centre public realm, repurposing of time expired 1950’s buildings to create new employment space, over 3,000 new town centre homes, 7,000 new jobs and improvements to transport infrastructure that will make sustainable travel more attractive. Improvements include a refurbished railway station, bus priority improvements and the replacement of every existing real time information screen plus new screens fitted to around 130 bus stops for the first time.  Funding has been set aside to reimagine a number of the busiest bus stops in Manor Royal with the aim of turning humble shelters into mini departure lounge spaces that might include adjacent outdoor leisure space, an interchange with bikes or scooters in the future, a parcel collection point or even somewhere to grab a coffee as you hop on a bus.

Now a successful Town Deal Funding application is building on the work of the Growth Fund program by providing funding to build a new 21st century bus station facility to replace the existing tired collection of old fashioned bus shelters opposite Crawley’s Railway Station and adjacent to the County Mall Shopping Centre. This further investment in transport infrastructure sits alongside funding for green business grants, enhanced education and skills opportunities for local people and an impressive new innovation centre in Manor Royal.

Through the Head of Innovation Strategy, the bus company is in the room during all the important conversations, championing the role that buses have to play, collaborating with key stakeholders, and now even chairing the Green Transformation sub group of the Town Deal Board. This is partnership working on a new level and has seen us working way outside of our normal comfort zones, enabling buses to deliver much more than just moving people from A to B. The great thing is, it is still only the start as plans for a 13,000 new home development on the outskirts of Crawley are likely to incorporate an expansion of the Fastway BRT network with two new routes and an ambition to include ‘end to end’ bus priority as far as possible when connecting these new homes with the key destinations around the area so it is a partnership that is likely to continue giving back to the community for many years.

Patrick Warner

Head of Innovation Strategy

Brighton & Hove Buses | Metrobus | Spirit of Sussex Coaches
Part of the Go Ahead Group