Transport strategy

Passenger Transport Strategy

In the summer of 2016 we consulted on some proposed changes to:

  • subsidised bus services
  • concessionary fares
  • community transport

The proposed new Passenger Transport Strategy also included some other changes to how the council manages its fleet vehicles and how it buys school transport services. These proposals do not effect customers but help to ensure the council is as efficient as possible in these areas.

The new Passenger Transport Strategy aspires to:

  • support residents to access employment and services they need to live well through a range of passenger transport services
  • ensure that residents at risk of isolation and deprivation are able to access the transport they need
  • support and strengthen a mixed economy of transport services, including commercial, voluntary, community and subsidised options.
  • achieve value for money for residents and council tax payers

You can read the full Passenger Transport Strategy online (link opens in new window) (Item 52 on Executive agenda - 11 October 2016) but a summary of the changes is provided below

Changes to Passenger Transport

Subsidised buses

From April 2017 the council will use the new, fair and transparent process to decide whether or not to fund a bus route that does not have enough passengers using it make it financially viable to run commercially.

The decision making process will take the following principles into account:

  • available alternatives (duplication of routes, alternative provision available)
  • accessibility – demand from older people or disabled people
  • reducing congestion – based on passenger numbers
  • affordability – value for money assessment based on passenger numbers
  • network coverage –priority will be given to buses running on core and second network roads

The proposed decision flow chart is provided (PDF 57.8KB)

Subsidies (council funding to run a bus route) will only be provided to buses running at the following times of high passenger demand:

  • 8am to 6:30pm weekdays
  • 8am to 3pm Saturdays

There will be no subsidises for Sunday buses.

Over half, 53%, of the bus services in Central Bedfordshire are currently subsidised by the council.

This costs us and therefore tax payers £1.2million in 2015/16. A subsidy for a single journey can cost us up to £17.50.

This is a discretionary service; the council is not obliged to fund buses but historically, we have. This is no longer affordable or sustainable.

As subsidised buses come to the end of their current contract we will use the new decision process to decide if the council will provide any subsidy.

Any routes that the council will not fund or were the current operators believe that they cannot run them commercially will be made available to voluntary and community transport providers to bid for through a new tendering process.

Community transport

There are a range of voluntary and community transport providers. Examples include Dial-a-Ride services, Flittabus, Wanderbus, Ivel Sprinter and Roadrunner.

Some use volunteers; some pay their drivers and staff. Some provide door to door services; some have regular routes and timetables.  Fares range in price. The council funds some of these providers.

These services are popular particularly with people living in rural areas, older and disabled people.  We know from a recent survey how important these services are to their customers; they really value these services and most would be prepared to pay more for the more individual bespoke service they get. 

We are already seeing community transport solutions stepping in to provide services and we want to encourage more of this. We are introducing a new tender process where community transport providers can enter a competitive process to provide all or part of the route. 

We currently provide financial assistance to the Dial a Ride operators in Central Bedfordshire by way of a grant. In order to ensure transparency in the way that we are funding these services going forward this financial assistance will be provided by means of a tender process.

Concessionary fares

There will be no changes to concessionary travel.

43,000 residents hold a buss pass and their journeys represent 40% of all bus journeys in Central Bedfordshire. We currently pay for every journey where a bus pass is used. In 2015/16 we spent nearly £2.4million on covering these fares.

We did consult on adopting national time regulations as set by the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, when users can use their bus pass. This would have meant bus pass holders would not have been able to use their bus passes before 9.30am or after 11pm on weekdays.

The feedback from the consultation showed that this would effect too many people and potentially affect people using the bus to get to work or medical appointments.

In the consultation, we also proposed that by 2030 you will only be able to apply for a bus pass online. Although we will move towards an online only application process we will not make this mandatory by 2030.

Users will have to apply to renew their bus pass, like you do when you tax your car, every five years.

Consultation feedback

We received 1,526 responses to the consultation. The consultation responses are provided here for completeness (PDF 222.2KB) .

Generally, consultations like this tend to generate responses mostly from people who use the service being changed.  Whilst this is useful and we need to understand the potential impact on them we also wanted to get a view from the general public that were not potentially biased because they use the service being discussed. Therefore we also carried out independent telephone survey with a representative sample of local residents. The results are provided below.

The survey was carried out be telephone with 1,100 residents by Opinion Research Services. The profile of the sample was broadly reflective of the population.

  • 58% agreed we should review the routes that are currently subsidise
  • 83% agreed that the proposed criteria are right
  • 69% agreed that we should introduce a competitive tender process for community transport
  • 57% agreed that we should limit the times when bus passes can be used
  • 33% agreed that we should make applying for a bus pass an online only process by 2020, 62% disagreed
  • 82% agreed that residents should have to apply to renew their bus pass every five years
  • 36% agreed we should end the Travel Aid scheme, 58% disagreed
  • 58% commented at the end of the independent survey that they felt the proposals were generally a good idea.

Decision making

The consultation has now closed. 

The Executive Committee (link opens in new window) reviewed the feedback and made a recommendation to full council on 11 October to approve the new strategy.

Full Council (link opens in new window) reviewed this recommendation on 17 November 2016. 

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