IMPROVEMENTS to a key Forest and Wye Valley bus route has been approved thanks to significant government funding.

The Department for Transport has allocated more than £4.4 million to Gloucestershire County Council from its Bus Service Improvement Plan Plus (BSIP+) to boost public transport in the county.

Funding amounting to £2,209,623 has been allocated for 2023/24, and an anticipated further £2,209,623 will be given for 2024/25.

A report was put to the county council’s cabinet on Wednesday, September 20 and a recommendation to try to secure contracts for 25 specific improvements was approved.

One such improvement means the 72 Lydney to Chepstow, operated by Newport Bus, will now also link to Mitcheldean via Soudley, Ruspidge and Cinderford.

The extension will improve connectivity between Chepstow and the Forest, which was affected by the loss of multiple services in cuts made by Stagecoach last autumn.

The council says BSIP+ funding is aimed at boosting the numbers of people travelling by bus, which have fallen since the Covid pandemic, and provides the opportunity to run additional services at weekends and later in the evenings, in response to feedback from bus users.

It also says the funding means some services which were withdrawn last year by Stagecoach could be reinstated, if operators come forward to run the routes.

Other improvements include extensions to timetables in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, Tewkesbury and the Cotswolds.

Cllr Philip Robinson (Con, Mitcheldean), cabinet member with responsibility for buses, said: “I’m delighted the Department for Transport has supported bus service growth in Gloucestershire with this funding allocation.

“This funding will help us to secure the bus transport network and provide many new and expanded services which I’m sure will prove very popular with residents.

“We are committed to improving and supporting the many bus services we have in the county.

“Buses help connect our communities and are a green and sustainable way to travel that will help us meet our carbon emission targets.

“This award is a very significant step in helping us to achieve those goals.”