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Scheme to get students on board buses shortlisted for national award

Posted: 10 May 2024

A student travel scheme, which saw more than 185,000 journeys made by students, staff and apprentices in its first three months, has been shortlisted for a national award.

Nottinghamshire County Council developed the multi-operator ticketing scheme alongside West Nottinghamshire College, Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Stagecoach East Midlands and trentbarton to give students more flexibility than the college’s former private bus network could offer while also strengthening the local economy and making the future of the local bus network sustainable.

Launched in September 2023, the scheme has now been shortlisted in the ‘Bus Centre of Excellence Bus Initiative of the Year’ category of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transport’s Annual Awards 2024, which take place in London on Thursday 13 June.

Multi-operator season tickets offer students at the college and NTU unlimited travel within the catchment area seven days a week. This means students have a much wider choice above and beyond the two services a day previously offered.

Software was used to model how students could be transferred onto the local bus network and new and improved bus routes were launched by trentbarton and Stagecoach to accommodate this.

Additionally, trentbarton extended its Ripley to Sutton-in-Ashfield 90 service to operate through to Mansfield, meaning that the college’s four main campuses – on Derby Road and Chesterfield Road in Mansfield, the Construction Centre in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, and the Engineering Innovation Centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield – plus NTU’s Mansfield Hub located on the college’s Derby Road campus, are now all connected by bus.

Such are the positive impacts of the scheme that retailers in Mansfield and Ashfield have since reported an increase in footfall and sales thanks to more students being able to travel into town centres using their season tickets outside of college hours and terms.

Gavin Peake, director of IT, estates and learning resources at West Nottinghamshire College, said: “I’m thrilled this project is in the running for such a prized accolade. We have been working extremely closely with trentbarton, Stagecoach and Nottinghamshire County Council to provide a fantastic transport offering to our students and we’re very pleased with what has been achieved so far.

“As a result of this initiative, more than double the number of young people now use public transport on a regular basis, which has reduced carbon emissions through fewer car journeys.

“Students have fed back to us that they are extremely happy with the flexibility of the offer and now use buses for many journeys outside of their days at college including during evenings and weekends. It is also used by students to attend work placements and enrichment activities, which builds their independence.

“The college continues to work with both bus companies and the county council to further improve this offering and we expect to see even larger numbers of students using public transport in the next academic year.”

Councillor Neil Clarke MBE, cabinet member for transport and environment at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “One of our biggest priorities as a council is to ensure that communities across Nottinghamshire have good bus services and we are proud that we have been able to support young people in the Mansfield and Ashfield areas to choose the bus as their primary mode of transportation.

“The multi-operator student ticketing scheme in and around Mansfield is a shining example of a progressive, innovative bus initiative, achieved through effective partnership working and we are delighted to have been recognised for this through being shortlisted for this prestigious award.

“Collaboration was the key to, and the reason for, this scheme’s success and I would like to thank our partners for helping us to achieve these positive outcomes for young people attending West Notts College and Nottingham Trent University.

“With no additional funding available, it was important that the cost of improving services and providing an affordable ticket was no more than that of the private bus services offered by the college.

“It is great to hear that students aren’t just travelling to get to and from college and that the local economy has seen a boost thanks to the multi-operator ticket.

“Around five percent of journeys made using the new tickets have been at weekends and this scheme is a great example of how travelling by bus can be embedded into daily life if the network is strong and affordable and we are proud to have played a role in ensuring that this is the case for young people in Mansfield and Ashfield.”

Tom Morgan, managing director of trentbarton, said: “This initiative shows what can be accomplished in partnership in the East Midlands where a precise requirement is identified, a long-term objective considered and a specific solution developed between forward thinking bus companies, educational institutions, and supportive local authorities, all with a common goal of encouraging young people onto public transport.”

Matt Cranwell, managing director at Stagecoach East Midlands, said: “We're delighted to hear the Student Rider project at West Notts College has been shortlisted in the Bus Centre of Excellence Awards. The initiative offers great flexibility with unlimited travel at any time of the day, helping students make the best use of their time for studies at home and on campus. By adding leisure bus journeys in the evenings and at weekends, West Notts College is leading the way in encouraging sustainable travel choices for young people."

Katie Kerry, head of operations for the Mansfield Hub at Nottingham Trent University, said: “We’re delighted to hear that this initiative has been shortlisted for a national award. The student travel scheme is a great example of education institutes and transport providers working together to make education more accessible and affordable for students. The extended timetable and additional buses give our students at NTU more options on when to travel - whether they choose to arrive at university earlier or leave later in the day.”

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