UK PM pledges 3 billion stg for England's bus network

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LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will invest 3 billion pounds ($4.17 billion) in England's bus network, aiming to provide more frequent, cheaper services to encourage people to catch the bus instead of using the car.

Under the shake-up of England's bus industry, the government said it will add hundreds of miles of new bus lanes, bring in contactless payments on all buses, and provide more evening and weekend services.

"Our reforms will make buses the transport of choice, reducing the number of car journeys and improving quality of life for millions," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

In England, private companies such as Stagecoach and Go-Ahead, are contracted to run bus services. They have been financially supported by the government in the pandemic as passenger numbers plunged.

Under Johnson's new plans, the Department for Transport said that local authorities and operators would form partnerships to deliver the services, or could develop franchise agreements.

The plans will help provide better services in parts of the country which suffer from poor public transport links, said Johnson, fitting in with his "levelling up" agenda.

The government said it will also bring in 4,000 new electric or hydrogen buses and end sales of new diesel buses to cut emissions.

Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths said in a statement he welcomed the ambition of the government's new bus strategy, adding that the importance of buses in local communities had long been overlooked.

"It is critical that the new bus strategy is matched by the right level of funding, consistent policy across government and a flexible partnership approach which prioritises benefits for customers," he said.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton)