The issue of buses in my constituency and more broadly in Northamptonshire has been a troubling one for some time.
I recognise that in largely rural constituencies, like Daventry, the bus is essential. It enables people to get to work, to school, to the doctors or to hospital, and can drastically improve quality of life. I also recognise the important role that local buses play in enabling constituents to carry out day to day to living as well as maintaining vital links with friends and family.
With this in mind, it was particularly troubling to learn in 2017 that following budgetary pressures bus subsidies were to be removed by Northamptonshire County Council (NCC)
This has been a source of great frustration and inconvenience for all, particularly elderly constituents who rely on local buses as their only means of transport. However, it is important at this stage to note that the bus services are a matter for the Local Authorities rather than myself as your local Member of Parliament.
Having said this, since learning of this matter I have made every effort to find a solution and progress is being made on an exciting new pioneering proposal by Uno Bus.
Uno Bus is unique in that it is understood to be the only formally registered bus company in the UK in the joint ownership of two universities: Northampton and Hertfordshire. Uno Bus is keen to help its parent organisation, the University of Northampton, deliver its wider agenda for the health and wellbeing of local communities.
The benefit for ‘Daventry’ is that Uno Bus are keen to pilot their scheme in the locality and have consequently developed a ‘package’ to fit our needs.
With this in mind, Uno Bus is planning to develop the next generation model of ‘Demand Responsive Transport’ and implement this in Northamptonshire in the first instance. This model will involve new and innovative forms of governance, funding and delivery without the requirement for local or national subsidy, and therefore, is more sustainable. Services will be ordered and managed using state of the art technology to book rapid response bus services, but in predesignated zones geographically covering the whole of the County- a type of ‘Uber’ for buses if you like.
You can find below a timeline of progress on this subject. I will endeavour to keep constituents informed of any future developments that occur:
Update: 29th June 2018
Today, I met with Tony Ciaburro, Project Director of Transport Transformation at Uno Bus along with 4 Parish Council Chairs to discuss how Uno buses may be able to help the ongoing bus problems within ‘Daventry’.
The agenda included NCC budget Pressures, the Total Transport initiative, Uno Bus opportunities, ‘Daventry’ demographics and profile and potential Parish services.
Update: 22nd August 2018
Today, I wrote to all Parish Council Chairs within my constituency informing them of Uno Bus’s exciting proposal and their wish for Parish Council engagement and cooperation financially. I also welcomed any feedback.
This feedback was extensive and I have since read their insightful comments carefully and found them very constructive indeed.
Update: 20th November 2018
Today I met with Philip Waters, the Chairman of Uno Bus, Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Tony Ciaburro, Project Director of Transport Transformation at Uno Bus and Jim Thorpe, the Managing Director of Uno Bus.
Ms Ghani proved very helpful indeed amid discussions surrounding Uno Bus’s plans locally and nationally.
Update: 7th January 2019
Today I once again wrote to Parish Council Chairs to update them on where the matter currently stands with Uno Bus.
If all remains positive, then Uno Bus intend to proceed on a delivery timetable with a view for services to be fully operational in June 2019. However, I do not need to tell you, this is a long process and there can be no assurances given at this stage.
Update: 10th May 2019
Today I recieved an update from Tony Ciaburro, he notes that arrangements with the technology partner are now well advanced and will hopefully finish the technical details by the end of the month. Their work is expected to take about 6 months to develop and if all goes well hopefully they will be ready to trial the system on the pilot scheme.
We are also continuing to work closely with the Department for Transport and Nusrat Ghani to help Uno roll this out nationally.
Update: 4th November 2019
I recently arranged a meeting with Tony Ciaburro, the leader of the pilot scheme, and Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Department of Transport to discuss the future of UNO buses in Daventry. The discussions were productive.
The situation now is that UNO intend to set up a new company to deliver the pilot project and roll it out to other areas both home and abroad. The company is to be owned by the University of Northampton, The University of Hertfordshire and Molten Mouse (the technology provider).
Mr Ciaburro informs me that they are in the process of establishing this company and are applying for a new grant from the Government to fund upfront business costs. He is hopeful that the system can be up and running in the next 6 months.