CHESHIRE East is gearing up to extend fare reductions to 16 to 19-year-olds in the borough.

It also plans to introduce a multi-operator ticket in Macclesfield to increase bus use.

The new ticketing schemes are just two of the initiatives which will be funded by nearly £3.5m awarded as part of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP).

Other recent improvements already implemented include the re-introduction of a few Saturday evening and Sunday services in some areas.

Richard Hibbert, head of strategic transport and parking, told the highways and transport committee on Thursday: “The vast majority of the money goes into either extending the hours of operation of bus services, particularly early evening, early mornings, late evenings and weekends.”

He said although the Sunday services had only been running a couple of weeks they were being well used.

But he added: “We are generally in the business, with the bus operators, of trying to strengthen our existing network.

“We aren’t at the stage yet where it is sensible to introduce completely new bus routes in Cheshire East.

“We're looking to build on what we have and strengthen it.”

Mr Hibbert said two of the bigger expenditure items are changes to tickets.

“So we're looking to extend the availability of a reduced fare for 16 to 19-year-olds.”

He said that should go live in September.

He added: “This year, we've been working on a multi-operator ticket for the Macclesfield area, which we anticipate will go live later this summer. The target date is early August.

“Next year, we will do a similar multi-operator ticket for the Crewe and Nantwich area.

“And this can allow people to use a given ticket on any bus service, rather than be restricted to the operator they purchase the ticket from.”

Cllr Craig BrowneCllr Craig Browne (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) said while he welcomed the additional £3.5m of funding ‘obviously, it falls some significant way short of the £56m that we asked for in the original BISP’.

But he added: “I believe that these initiatives are the right ones, particularly multi-operator tickets and also the concessionary fares for our 16 to 19-year-old age group.

“I think, if we are to set about trying to change behaviour and encourage greater use of public transport, then that is the right target group to begin with.”

Cllr Laura CraneCllr Laura Crane (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Laura Crane (Sandbach, Lab) said she was delighted with the Sunday services and other initiatives were heading in the right direction.

“I do feel that the council has a passion for this now, understands the importance of the bus network… giving people the opportunity to get from A to B whether that's for jobs, for leisure purposes, to see family, to get to the hospitals, there's so many reasons, so I'm really glad to see this going forward,” she said.

Cllr Mark GoldsmithCllr Mark Goldsmith (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Committee chair Mark Goldsmith (Wilmslow, Ind) said: “We know that people that are currently using buses are quite happy with them.

“The challenge we have, really, is to get people who don't use buses at the moment, because we have a high car ownership, and to get those to use buses instead.”

The committee was unanimous in approving the recommendations which included approving the proposals for spending the council’s allocation of BSIP funding.