Steve Darling - We are committed to being a carbon neutral council

There’s no question that we live in a beautiful part of the world and we want to keep it that way. Climate change has become a huge issue over the years, and rightly so – it should be taken seriously. As a local authority we are committed to becoming a carbon neutral council. We have a responsibility to do our bit to help Torbay and  encourage our communities to do the same.

Lots of active travel projects are taking place across the Bay to benefit our health and wellbeing, quality of life, the economy and even our pockets! Five new projects are being launched this summer as part of our ‘Liveable Towns’ scheme which aims to make Torbay more accessible and encourage more cycling. They include a new cycle path on Torbay Road, working with residents to find out how we can encourage active travel and reduce traffic in Winner Street, Paignton, talking to residents about how we can improve cycling routes in and out of Brixham and a scheme for improvements alongside and near to Furzeham Primary School in Brixham. As a tandem rider myself, I know how intimidating it can be when lorries or buses appear to give little regard to push bike users on the highway.

But that’s not the only way we are trying to support our transport network. During the lockdowns many people stopped using public transport. Our partnership administration decided to not fund bus operators at historic levels at a time when they had furloughed bus drivers and reduced services. So, we changed the way we paid this concessionary funding. As a result, we have saved around £950k and we are now reinvesting that in our transport system.

We are using half a million of this money for highways maintenance and to repair signage. £50,000 is set to help develop an electric bus scheme in Torbay. Working with Stagecoach, we have expressed our interest in funding to help us buy several electric vehicles.. This will help achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and strengthen Torbay’s resilience in a changing climate. Buses are one of the greenest forms of transport. a fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road, reducing congestion and transport’s impact on the the environment.

With the funding saved through the concessionary bus fare scheme we are also offering free bus passes for families entitled to free school meals. Each pass enables up to two adults and three children to travel for free over the summer. After an incredibly difficult 16 months, this will help struggling families to explore Torbay and spend some quality time together. It’s something many of us take for granted, but for those dealing with tight finances it’s an opportunity to get out together and visit areas of Torbay that they otherwise might not be able to afford to do.

Another tranche of this money is being used to support some of our care experiences children to get them out and about using our buses. It always strikes me as extremely perverse that it is more expensive to use public transport in areas outside London, our capital. This is something the government should address.

Rather than ploughing money into keeping bus routes open that had no demand we have taken steps to use this money more wisely. We have invested in our transport structure and are giving back to our communities in a different way.

Travelling by bus is just one of the ways we can help the environment. During lockdown many of us ditched out cars and took up walking and cycling to exercise. Now we’re being encouraged to continue these good habits and stay active when we travel to work or school, and to meet friends and family.

We could all save an average £400-£600 a year by walking or cycling to school or work instead of driving. That’s got to be worth it!

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