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A Powerhouse of Partners

There’s lots of talk about the Northern Powerhouse and devolution of powers to northern cities in the media at the moment. I wonder how many people – even locally – realise that we have our own potential South Coast Powerhouse emerging in the form of Greater Brighton?

Greater Brighton is the City Deal area covering the coast from Worthing through Brighton and Hove to Newhaven, and taking in parts of the South Downs National Park as well as Lewes, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and East Grinstead. It is home to 677,000 people and it provides 283,000 jobs.

The Greater Brighton City Deal aims to spread the effects of the most successful parts of the economy across the whole area, give the private sector the confidence to invest, and bring together the public and private sectors to create a “seamless framework” for economic growth. It’s said the Deal should unlock more than £170 million of investment here, and create another 8,500 jobs.

In a nutshell, the vision is for our area to become “one of the highest-performing urban economies in the UK”.

It’s a tall order … but the partners have already won Government backing for their plans, and a new Greater Brighton Economic Board is being formed that will work with Coast to Capital – the Local Enterprise Partnership – and with the Government agencies to implement the ambitious City Deal programme.

This is exciting stuff. There’s no doubt in my mind about the power of partnership to bring about lasting change in the economy for the benefit of local communities. I’m a great believer in “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job has been helping to reinvigorate the city’s Quality Bus Partnership, which is going from strength to strength.

Of course, as an employer of 1,200+ people, and a service provider to a huge percentage of the population, we’ve got a vested interest in the success of the city region’s economy. And I’m acutely aware that the services we run – more than 50 million passenger journeys a year – are part of that essential infrastructure that oils the city region’s wheels.

It’s why we’ve just invested £6 million in our new Coaster fleet: high-tech, state-of-the-art buses with record-breaking eco-efficiency, high-quality contemporary interiors, and free WiFi for passengers. Running every 10 minutes from Brighton – out along the coast and cliffs, and through part of the National Park – they’re our latest contribution to the city region’s exciting future.

A moving canvas

This coming Tuesday, we’ll be paying tribute to one of the city’s best-known WWII veterans and former mayor of Hove the late Bernie Jordan, when his name is added to the front of our First World War heritage bus. The heritage bus – a joint venture with Brighton & Hove City Council – is covered with evocative images that touch on the impact of the First World War on the city and its residents. There’s a wedding photo, postcards and posters. And there are photographs of wounded Indian soldiers in the Royal Pavilion, which – extraordinarily – became a temporary military hospital. For more about the stories behind the artwork, click here.

Our First World War bus is running on bus routes around the city till 2018, and attending events marking significant centenaries of the War during that time.

Another ‘moving canvas’ with a decidedly more upbeat and irreverent feel currently on our streets is our fantastically fun ‘Get On. Go Somewhere.’ bus, launched for this year’s Brighton Fringe. This wildly creative moving art installation celebrates the role of the bus in the cultural life of our city and features the amazing black-and-white stylised work of one of Brighton’s most exciting and prolific creatives, Jason McQuillen aka iownthisart. Click here to see a short film about the thinking behind the bus, and here for a high-speed time-lapse video of the guys in our body shop doing all the technical stuff.

On Saturdays in May, ‘Get On. Go Somewhere.’ is being used for free taster performances by Fringe artists – and Jason’s running a creative workshop on board on 16 May. It’ll be in service for the next couple of years, hopefully coming to a bus stop near you soon. If you get the chance, do get on and go somewhere … the coloured-gel lighting, ‘vintage’ psychedelic seat coverings, and mind-blowing images covering walls, ceilings and stairwell are quite something!

Look out for other ‘alternative’ buses in our fleet at the moment too: we have transformed double-deckers as part of our support for Paddle Round the Pier and Albion in the Community. And we’ve more on the drawing board and in the pipeline reflecting our support for local communities, culture, and environment.

Of course all these buses have something very powerful in common: this unique city with its history of creativity and difference, and its beautiful natural setting between the Downs and the sea. We’re really proud to be a part of it, and we plan to continue to mark and celebrate the rich fabric of life here with our moving canvases, out on the city streets and beyond. Watch this space!

If you’ve any comments, do get in touch @citybusnews.