This year’s UK Bus Awards conference will be held in Nottingham, a city well known for its innovative and proactive approach to public transport.

Increasingly strong partnerships between bus companies and local authorities are recognised as essential for the delivery high quality bus services, so it’s appropriate that September’s UK Bus Awards conference – Making Buses a Better Choice – will be held in Nottingham, a city that has embraced the concept to great acclaim.

The city is viewed as a beacon for best practice, perhaps best demonstrated by Nottingham City Council scooping the Transport Authority of the Year Award at last year’s UK Bus Awards. It has a proven track record of innovative partnership working with its progressive local bus operators to deliver consistent improvements, particularly over the past 10 years.

Patronage, satisfaction, punctuality and journey times are all improving. Its long running voluntary partnership approach has now been supplemented by a statutory partnership in the city centre, the first of its kind in the country, backed by its own enforcement process.

But the unique characteristics of Nottingham as a city play a part too. Andy Gibbons, Nottingham City Council’s public transport manager, believes that the city benefits from the majority of bus stops being on-street and right in the centre of the city. “That’s important and partly why I think that we have been so successful,” he adds. “The car parks are further away from the shops than the bus stops. It’s easier to use the bus to access the city centre than travelling by car.”

But there are other factors at work. Gibbons says that Nottingham was not subjected to the vagaries of 1960s town planning, which placed an emphasis on new roads and switching land use over to give priority to the car in many British cities. Car ownership too is also below the national average and, more importantly, the city is a politically stable unitary authority that has also been consistently positive in its approach to public transport matters.

“Over the years we’ve also had some pretty integrated policies as a local authority, particularly in land use planning and car parking management, and these support public transport,” says Gibbons.

Investment from the two main local bus operators, Nottingham City Transport and TrentBarton has also been consistent and often undertaken in partnership with the city council. More importantly, Nottingham was an early adopter of a partnership approach with operators.

Andy Gibbons will be one of the speakers at the UK Bus Awards conference on September 14-15.

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This story appeared in the latest issue of Passenger Transport. Click here to subscribe.