Purpose of the report: To enable scrutiny of the proposed changes to local bus services in Surrey to meet the required savings target. These proposals are due to be presented to Cabinet on 24 May 2016.
Paul Millin, Travel and Transport Group Manager
Laurie James, Bus Service Planning Team Manager
Valerie Sexton, Senior Transport Officer Planning
Mike Goodman, Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning
Key points raised during the discussions:
1. The Chairman explained that Annex B, provided to Members for the duration of the item, was confidential as it related to commercial contracts and that any discussion of its contents would require the meeting to be placed into part 2 conditions (by virtue of paragraph(s) 3 of Part 1 of schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972)..
2. The Travel and Transport Group Manager provided an introduction to the report outlining the £2m savings target the service had to achieve. A consultation had been held with residents between January and March which received 2,677 responses to shape the options for future provision. The Local Transport Review MRG had also given valuable feedback during this process.
3. The Board sought reassurances that there would be sufficient capacity to cope with growing numbers of children and young people using buses to travel to school. The Board also enquired how officers managed the issue of bus connections. The Travel and Transport Group Manager confirmed that peak movements were considered and they work with schools directly where possible but that September would be the real test. The Bus Service Planning Team Manager acknowledged the difficulty of managing connections but was clear that parents do take this into consideration when sending their children to school.
4. Officers were asked about the nature of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project and whether they had factored in increased use of bus services in their proposals for Cabinet. Members were informed that the first year of the three year project had been about understanding why people don’t use buses before the development of options for change in the second year. The Travel and Transport Group Manager agreed to bring the outcomes of the project to the Board for review at a future meeting.
5. The Board asked whether officers had expectations of future patronage of bus services. Members were informed that through negotiations with service providers the council hoped to keep subsidised routes near to current levels and would seek to encourage growth in commercial routes and in areas of demographic growth.
6. The Board highlighted the survey results and in particular the importance of accessing medical appointments to residents. Officers explained that this was mostly due to the high proportion of older respondents and that the council listened to these views and this was reflected in the revised options post-consultation and now 72 people would be adversely affected rather than 160.
7. Members asked officers about sanctions when services were not reliable and the availability of real time information. The Bus Service Planning Team Manager advised that on commercial routes reliability was the responsibility of other national statutory bodies although the council could offer support to alleviate issues. On council contracted routes penalties were available but it was preferred to use these only as a last resort.
8. Members questioned why nine electronic tenders had been issued and why one operator had changed their timetable unilaterally before the consultation had been completed. The Board learned that nine contracts were chosen because they were coming to the end of their terms. The Bus Service Planning Team Manager admitted it was unfortunate that Stagecoach had to change its timetable in the middle of the consultation but this was due to reliability issues and public need so this had to happen when it did.
9. The Meeting was taken into Part 2 so the board could consider the details in Annex B.
10. The Chairman and board thanked officers for all their hard work.
The board reviewed and provided feedback on the proposed changes to local bus services in Surrey as part of the local transport review.