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Author Topic: "A better deal for bus users" - DfT  (Read 1804 times)
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« on: February 06, 2020, 08:32:43 am »

Quite a long piece from the Department for Transport this morning:

In 2020/21 we will pay an extra £30 million to local authorities to improve current services and restore lost services where they’re needed most.

Our aim is to drive up patronage and make travelling by bus an even more attractive option. We look forward to working with you in developing these plans.

Since January 2014, around £43 million of the grant is paid directly to local authorities, rather than bus operators, to support socially necessary bus services in their area that are not commercially viable. The government recognises the importance of these services which can provide vital connections to people in rural areas, or ensure that more frequent evening or Sunday services are available. To improve current bus services, or restore lost services where needed, the government will pay an extra £30 million to local authorities in 2020/21.

Data covering our part of the country :

"Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole","£147,997"
Bracknell Forest,"£80,922"
"Cornwall, including Isles of Scilly","£736,184"
"Herefordshire, County of","£245,064"
Isle of Wight,"£56,721"
North Somerset,"£134,876"
West Berkshire,"£108,507"
West of England Combined Authority,"£736,397"
West Sussex,"£383,169"
Windsor and Maidenhead,"£82,918"

Looking to my own area - Wiltshire, and the Melksham area where some of the cards were throen in the air last week, a twentieth of the £671,161 would be an excellent seeding pot at just the right time to update services to suit changed needs. First are pulling out of their final route to the town in the face of stiff competition from Faresaver to whom I expect the majority of the traffic to transfer - and with a reduction from 14 to 10 vehicles in the pool used for services in the immediate area, the overall bottom line will be better.   Never the less, it's an opportunity to revise - perhaps in two steps - towards the government's aim of driving patronage towards buses, and not merely making sure we provide an answer to current users who ask "where's my bus gone?"

My fear is that the extra £671,161 to Wiltshire Council to support bus services (and did you note the specific reference to Weekends and Sunday from the DfT» (Department for Transport - about)?) will be added to the bus budget ... but then a similar amount of funding that's in that budget from other sources will be removed.  I've already been told that support funding will be tight next year and at the very least I would like to see the 29% reduction in vehicles not being exceeded.  First's choice to withdraw; I would not like to see anyone else forced to cut back on services, though I would like to see them tuned to meet changing needs.

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, and on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest.
Reading General
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2020, 11:18:10 am »

This all seems a long winded way of avoiding a change in legislation. Fantastic that money is put forward but then it's all back onto the head of an operator to deliver. We can't just go back to what we had in the U.K, we must come up with something else for some reason and spend money and time on trialling schemes.

Campaigns don't particularly work for the masses in urban areas, the price, frequency and length of a journey are the key drivers. Beyond into interurban and rural territory, incentives can work a little better, and frequency doesn't have to be as high but a service still needs to some extent be more regular and clockface timed than perhaps a rural railway station's service, especially travelling to and from the major nearby centre.

Bus priority measures are a much better investment for money provided they work in the right way (which is often not the case) and they are not just placed everywhere in a box ticking exercise, I can think of a couple where little or no service at all exists. This is an area where operators need more input rather than leaving council planning to just get on with it (I have the Reading Station North entrance stops and associated bus lanes in mind here)  and as seen with the Kassel kerbs, if councils are left to just do it themselves mistakes will be made. Additionally, I've said it before and I'll say it again, a minimum stop distance is required for urban areas to ensure progress, so the reorganising of bus stops is something that should be included as a bus priority measure.

Multi bus ticketing of course makes sense but removing the opportunity for competition on corridors by multiple operators makes even more sense. Cross company ticketing would be most useful if I could purchase one ticket on an app and scan that on the bus to town, to enter the station, and the bus in the next town I'm going to. Alternatively I could choose to the bus service between the two towns instead on the spur of the moment. A system like that would probably require a national body to organise it.

After improvements and possibly more ridership being gained, do bus companies have the capacity to deal with it? It's not just about adding another bus to the loop. Loading times, bunching of frequent services or corridors, stop capacity and whether your town/city centre even has the road capacity to deal with anymore vehicles per hour all will have an effect on the ebb and flow of people using bus services, and cause ridership to plateau but only at a certain time of day. Reading Buses popularity at peak times of the day on certain routes is overwhelming and will cause ripples for the service off peak possibly until the next peak time, thus putting people off the service at the other times of day by late running and bus bunching. Private operators do not like to, or perhaps cannot afford to, send out 'Thunderbird' buses to correct late running vehicles, so how operators can deal with capacity requirements only at certain times of day is something that needs to be looked at.

I feel that trying to do all of this at the same time as trying to make it emissions free is a stretch to far. Battery or Hybrid buses are not going to become affordable for many operators or councils without continued government support for many years to come. Hence why I continue to favour wiring the popular corridors in urban areas. It's technology that's being put to good use all over the world, but possibly too big a commitment in this country, after all we are only looking at a better deal for bus users (as the title of this report suggests) and we still see that as a certain demographic, rather than everybody. Public transport needs far more commitment than a lump sum of money and just leaving operators to get on with it.
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2020, 07:08:12 am »

£50m for a local authority to go electric. Have I misunderstood this? After Swindon went private there are less than 10 local authority-run bus operators, or is it for the councils to give to private operators.
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2020, 08:31:03 am »

£50m for a local authority to go electric. Have I misunderstood this? After Swindon went private there are less than 10 local authority-run bus operators, or is it for the councils to give to private operators.

It says deeper into the pdf that it's for an operator and an authority, I presume for possible charging infrastructure on street perhaps.
There is also the possibility that a local authority could be the one to distribute the money in a situation where they have more than one operator in their area, Oxford for example.
 Local authority companies are not run by the authority, they are owned at arms length and must conform to the same rules as the other bus operators (save for a few persuasive nudges for the benefit of votes). In Reading, if the buses were still public they would be cheaper, the frequencies higher on many routes and the pretty colours wouldn't have got a look in.
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2020, 09:01:51 am »

I think 50m would get you a reasonable amount of wiring on which to run battery trolleybuses around a town than simply buying battery buses and the charging facilities, thus spreading the all electric service even further, . With wiring you would have charging all over town while on the move and run on battery into the countryside.
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