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Author Topic: Cross Border buses from Bath - a case for an Enhance Bus Partnership  (Read 506 times)
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« on: June 02, 2018, 03:14:07 pm »

From the West of England Combined Authority yesterday  - my public contribution

I would like to petition WECA to implement / facilitate an enhanced bus partnership, with rail, for services that cross boundaries out of the WECA commercial hub of Bath into neighbouring authorities such as Wiltshire and Somerset / Mendip. 

WECA is the natural lead authority for this role. It has mayoral powers under the Bus Services Act of 2017. Its city (Bath) is at the hub of these services. 

This is an organisational and management request and does not call for capital investment. It does not call for any subsidy for running additional services to those already planned or existing.  It will generate revenue by joining cross boundary transport elements to a more attractive, more efficient network.

I commend WECA and its predecessors for their promotion of MetroWest Rail as a network. I commend WECA for its extensions already planned beyond the authority's boundary rather than cutting off at the Bathampton border. Wiltshire and Mendip's housing is growing quicker than employment. Bath's employment is growing quicker than housing. Flows across the border can only increase. If that's in single occupancy private vehicles, so will congestion.

But the network isn't just about train journeys into Bath.  It's about passenger flows by train and by bus, and conversion from private car where practical. It's about journeys from Corsham, Chippenham, Bradford-on-Avon, Melksham, Westbury, Trowbridge, Frome and Warminster with a total population around 200,000 and growing. It's about journeys to Bath, to the centre of Bristol, and to employment in the Filton, Aztec West and Westgate / Severnside areas. A networked system is needed where each service caters for multiple intertwined flows. A system where journeys outbound and return may not necessarily be optimum with the same provider. A system where some services are infrequent, and where some cannot be sustained economically with multiple operators competing. A system in which some services only operate for parts of the day or week.

The lack of co-ordination of routes, of timetables and of ticketing between existing services is a significant drag on service growth.

Let me give you an example.  From Bath to Melksham,
   I can take the Faresaver bus - hourly during the day, half hourly at peak pensioner time.
   I can take the First West of England bus, now increased to half hourly.
      But together the buses are not well spaced … 09:51, 09:52, 10:21
   I can take the train - change at Chippenham or Trowbridge.
      That's good if I'm carrying on to Bristol, or in the evening 3 hour bus gap.

But I have to know with whom I'll be travelling back  to sort out what ticket to buy. And I need to be a dab hand with timetables or apps to work out my best way. Chances are I'll find it easier to drive much of the time.

I'm fortunate - I can drive. But I'll needlessly clog the streets in Bath.
I hear from knowledgeable friends and TransWilts members in other settlements that the story has parallels from in Wiltshire and Somerset towns.

I am requesting - petitioning - WECA to enable and host an EPS (Enhanced Transport Partnership). It would be a step towards:
   * Lessening congestion, not replacing a smoggy queue with a clean queue
   * Reducing the need for parking, including controversial “park and ride”s
   * a Better quality of life and improving air quality
   * Reducing support costs; bus gets more passengers and quicker rides
   * Offering greater stability for bus companies – business beyond 56 days
- Look to The Government that's provided you with a Bus Services Act.
- Look at Cornwall where the "One System" is being implemented in.
- Look in your own area - partnership is working on Bath/Keynsham corridor.

Who is making this suggestion? At TransWilts, I am responsible for our tactical activities – helping make things work. TransWilts is a partnership of the community, the transport industry and local government with an expertise and track record in the area. In the last five years
   * rail passengers using the Chippenham to Trowbridge line have risen from 18,000 to 247,000 journeys per annum
   * passenger numbers at Melksham from 3,000 to 75,000 j.p.a.
   * buses on the Melksham to Bath flow have risen by a third
   * Wiltshire Council have relet the supported town service to connect with trains for more passenger growth using existing resources.
The suggestion has support beyond Wiltshire. It has been validated and confirmed by group leads in Somerset, Severnside and Gloucestershire.

Where do we go from here?   Well - you are very much aware of your networking and cross boundary needs, and quite likely already looking at these new partnership schemes.  I would like to offer you encouragement and support in setting up a Partnership if you're already looking.  If this is new, we can also offer suggestions and share what has been learned already.

This is a financially sound, environmentally  friendly and quality of life improving request in so many ways and I hope you will take it forward.

And thank you for listening and for allowing me to petition you on the subject.

 The routes in question
   Buses in magenta
   Trains in orange

 Green shows onward flows
   from Wiltshire and Somerset    
   for significant numbers of
   commuters lines
   representational of flows by
   both private and public

Well .. I enjoyed sewing the seeds of the idea, even if I found the acoustics of the hall difficult.   Now how to avoid it becoming just a "statement from a member of the public" that gathers dust in the meeting's archive??

Coffee Shop Admin, Member of Melksham Rail User Group, on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest and some more things besides
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