Bus stop improvements to be funded with increased advertising

Bus passengers can expect to see adverts sprouting up on shelters across Essex in a deal between the county council and a leading billboard owner.

Essex County Council wants to improve bus shelters by taking advantage of “significant advertising potential” through a contract with Clear Channel UK which already operates more than 33,000 advertising sites nationwide.

The county council says its plan will help increase bus usage – buses were responsible for around 32.7 million passenger journeys in Essex in 2022/23 which was down from 43 million bus passenger journeys in In 2018/19.

Essex County Council also intends to spend around £3m in 2024/25 for the replacement and installations of new bus shelters. Under the arrangements the council will become owner of all local authority bus shelters in Essex other than those owned by Maldon District Council and Uttlesford District Council.

Clear Channel will maintain all shelters on Essex County Council’s behalf and install and sell advertising at locations mutually agreed with the council. All advertising will be in adherence to the council’s advertising policy. Adverts for political organisations, payday lenders, tobacco products, including vaping, alcohol and pornography will not be allowed.

The council will receive a minimum guaranteed income and a profit-share from the advertising that will be ring-fenced for spending on the bus infrastructure network in Essex.

An earlier decision in February 2020 approved the procurement of a concession contract for the maintenance and supply of bus shelters and advertising on those shelters for a 10 year period, with a 5 year extension option, with an estimated value of £10m to £30m over its lifetime.

The council says that bus shelter provision is currently patchy, inconsistent and uncoordinated. Shelter ownership is split across multiple organisations and the council does not benefit from any advertising income.

Essex County Council owns many bus shelters throughout the county. None of these have advertising space. The city, borough and districts also own several bus shelters.

In addition, some districts have arrangements with an advertising contractor where the contractor provides, owns and maintains bus shelters and sells advertising space on it. Essex County Council does not have an arrangement of this nature.

The county council says this means that in some areas there is a modern stock of bus shelters but in others the shelters are old and are not always well maintained.

A statement as part of a decision set to be agreed by Councillor Tom Cunningham, cabinet member for highways, said: “The council set out to procure an Essex-wide Bus Shelter contract, following cabinet approval on February 25 2020, which is key in delivering this vision. It will provide an improved bus stop experience for existing and prospective bus passengers and leverage significant advertising potential to generate income to support this venture.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter