Meeting documents

SCC Bus Advisory Board
Monday, 25th April, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Michael Bryant at Email: or 01823 357628  Terrie Brazier at Email:

No. Item


Welcome and Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies from Board members.


The Chair noted that the meetings of this Board are not subject to the statutory public meeting requirements and will therefore be held virtually, with a recording to be made and published on the Council’s website.  Members of the public can also observe virtually.  The Chair reminded attendees that the role of this Board is to provide a formal structure for discussion and engagement between the local authority and bus operators.


There were apologies from Michael Bryant (Governance Manager) and Tessa Saunders (South Somerset District Council)



Minutes of the Meeting Held on 17 February 2022 pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To review and approve the minutes as an accurate record.


The minutes were accepted as an accurate record of the meeting.



Public Question Time

To receive any questions or statements from the public relevant to the meeting.  These must be received by 5 pm three clear working days before the meeting.


Public questions should be submitted in writing no later than three clear working days before the meeting to 



There were two public questions from David Redgewell, which were read by the Chair:


Questions from David Redgewell:


(1)  What progress is being made on Taunton bus and coach station now that we have £11 .9 of bus service improvements plan money.  It's a top priority of passengers to provide proper bus and coach interchange facilities in Taunton. Taunton is a major Southwest town without a public transport interchange bus or coach station. Tower Street by station is owned by Somerset West and Taunton Council.  National Express coaches are interchanging passengers outside Shire Hall in Park Avenue for Exeter, which has a coach station under construction.  Plymouth and Penzance with services to Barnstaple bus station, Ilfracombe and Bideford.  Passenger facilities are some of the worst in Southwest England for bus and coach services.


(2)  Why Did Somerset County Council, who is the Transport Authority working with Somerset West and Taunton Council, not plan to keep bus and coach service layovers In Taunton bus and coach station instead of agreeing to allow buses to lay over and block stands in Taunton town centre? Other Southwest councils regulate the highways and bus and coach stops and where buses can wait.  The blocking of stands without service of First Group buses and other companies is making it difficult for wheelchair passengers to access services. We need very, very urgent review of bus stands and passenger facilities In Taunton town centre by Somerset County Council. 


In response to the first question, Natasha Bates, Service Commissioning Manager, said that following the funding announcement the DfT have also issued further information relating to the use of the funding, including rules on how it can and cannot be used.  One of the stipulations is that the funding cannot be used for investment in existing infrastructure, which we have assumed rules out the Taunton bus station proposal.  However, we will continue to look for alternative funding streams.  Although there is nothing immediate in the pipeline, we are still intending to complete the feasibility study which will provide suggestions on what the improvements should look like, in case funding does become available in the future.


In response to the second question, Natasha Bates stated that the former bus station facility is owned by Somerset West and Taunton, and since the closure of the facility in March 2020, Buses of Somerset have had an arrangement with Somerset West and Taunton whereby Buses of Somerset lease space on the site for parking their vehicles.  This arrangement between those two parties has recently come to an end, but our public transport team have been working with the operator to identify appropriate layover bays for buses where required and to advise of any action needed from their perspective to facilitate this.  What is worth noting is that as part of the move to the unitary council, there are various workstreams looking at the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.


Verbal Update on the Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme

To receive and discuss the verbal update.


The Chair invited Natasha Bates, Service Manager for Commissioning-Highways and Transport, to present the update regarding the EP since the last Bus Advisory Board meeting in February.  The EP Plan and Scheme was approved at Cabinet on 16 March and was then signed by all of the relevant operators.  The EP was then dated and made on 29 March, published on the SCC website, and a copy sent to the DfT team.  The EP came into effect on 1 April 2022.  The EP is obviously dependent upon the BSIP funding allocation, so the EP will need to be varied to accurately reflect the schemes funded; this will need to be discussed at the next board meeting once we have agreed the proposals for the funding received, and those proposals will be discussed later in today’s agenda.


There were no questions from the Board or other attendees.


The Bus Advisory Board received and noted the update.



Update on Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) Funding pdf icon PDF 58 KB

To receive and discuss the report.


The Chair invited Natasha Bates, Service Manager for Commissioning-Highways and Transport, to present the update.  She stated that hopefully everyone was aware that Somerset had been awarded BSIP funding of approximately £11.9 million, and whilst that was significantly lower than the original bid, it was worth pointing out that Somerset could be very pleased for having been recognised in what was a highly competitive and obviously over-subscribed process entailing 79 bids received and only 31 funded.  She has circulated a report with the agenda which sets out more information about the funding split and the rules governing the funding; it has to be spread over three years and has been split between capital funding, which amounts to approximately £8.2 million, and revenue funding, which totals approximately £3.7 million.  The next stage of the process is for us to submit a summary table to DfT which sets out how we propose to use the funding and the cost of the schemes that we are looking to fund; this needs to be submitted by 2 May, which is a bank holiday, so it is a very tight timescale. 


In the next agenda item today, Tim Reynolds from WSP will be presenting some of the funding options, but the important point is that we are working within very specific rules set by the DfT.  They have sent us a follow-up letter confirming how the funding should or should not be used, and NB will circulate a copy of that letter to this Board.  As regards the capital funding, the DfT have been very clear that their priority for capital funding is centred on bus priority measures; while on the revenue funding side, there are two key areas, with the first being ambitious initiatives that reduce or simplify fares, and the second being an increase in service frequencies and introducing new or expanded routes (but not existing service levels and patterns).  DfT has also been very clear that the funding should not be used for any schemes that do not primarily benefit buses, nor for generic marketing and advertising, nor for provision of bus hardware such as CCTV or audio-visual equipment, not for investment in existing infrastructure, which rules out investment in bus stations.  There are also funding stipulations that the focus must be on promoting the use of the bus more widely, promoting the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS), providing ENCTS travel on those schemes funded by BSIP, and ensuring that publicity will be made in conjunction with the DfT so that it is all co-branded and co-publicised.


A discussion by the Board followed; the point was raised that the DfT said funding could not be used for existing infrastructure "unless it directly tackles barriers to use".  It was believed that the argument could be made that not having a transport hub in a major town centre is a definite barrier to use of bus services, as if there is no interchange to get another bus, that is a barrier.  It may  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.


BSIP Proposals

To receive the presentation.


The Chair invited Tim Reynolds, Associate from WSP, to make the slide presentation on the proposals and to discuss completion of the form required by the DfT for allocation of the £8,169,839 capital funding and £3,695,020 revenue funding over the next three years.  He pointed out that the funding is not formal or binding at this stage, and no money has actually been issued; so at any point the government could say that they do not like our plans and take back part or all of the funding.  Therefore, we have to meet all of the DfT’s criteria and make a strong case for achieving what it is intended; we must meet their aims and priorities.  Many other LTAs are not in as good as a position as we are, so our partnership approach has functioned very well.  Given the amount of funding, we will not be able to achieve all of the aims in the BSIP, but we should be thinking about how we can deliver on the key objectives that stakeholders and the public raised at the time of writing the BSIP together; i.e., more buses to more places, services that run later and on weekends, improvements to frequencies in rural areas, and decarbonisation of the fleet.  We can achieve quite a lot of that even with the smaller funding allocation.  The Annex 4 form that was at the end of the award letter is what needs to be completed this week; it is a high-level form very much like the BSIP funding form where we indicated the types of projects we were working on, the effects they will have, the amount of funding needed for them, and the type of funding required to deliver them.  Once that is submitted, we need to start work on updating the EP in accordance, which can be done using the bespoke variation mechanism where we can add detail to any of the measures or operator objective that are outlined in Sections 3 and 4.  The draft of the updated EP needs to be submitted to the DfT by the end of June, which will give us time to take into consideration any comments from the DfT on the summary form that we submit by the end of this week.  So by the end of June, we will hopefully have a final set of capital and revenue items that we are all in agreement with, and using the change mechanism in the EP, we will have a Board meeting to agree the changes detailed in the EP.  Funding should then be received by the end of October.


He noted that the DfT’s top priority for capital investment is bus priority, meaning bus lanes, especially on all major roads with a high-frequency service, and also signalisation prioritisation, bus gates, removal of parking that impedes buses, etc.  In terms of revenue spending, DfT priorities centre on reducing or simplifying fares, creative initiatives, service and frequency increases, new and expanded services, and demand-responsive transport services.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Network Updates from Operators

To receive the updates.


The Chair invited operators to advise of any network updates, noting that part of the Enhanced Partnership and Scheme allows for operators to advise the board in advance of their network proposals. 


Marc Morganhuws of First Group stated that there is a need to consolidate the network post-Covid without removing services.  He has consulted with John Perrett, Christopher Parkinson, and Natasha Bates on the need to remove some frequencies in areas where they are only around a 50% recovery rate; on peak flows carrying students, double-deck buses can be used, thus saving on having to provide more buses.  They are receiving replacement vehicles now and are at the back end of a consultation with SCC within the 70-day registration period; the news of this endeavour will be made public by the end of this week.  In Somerton there will be changes in order to provide better services; timetables are still being worked on but should be finalised by the beginning of June.  In response to a question about Sunday services and tourist routes, he said there is an aspiration to do more regarding tourist routes on weekends, but the other issues that he discussed need to be finalised first.  It was requested that any changes to services be marketed/publicised through all possible media channels, social media, and printed timetables; MM agreed that a Somerset-wide timetable should be discussed.


Peter Fairey of South West Coaches reported that they are de-registering the service from Yeovil to Barwick, which has been a victim of Covid, by the 3rd of June this year.  John Perrett stated in regard that they are looking at data from South West Coaches at the moment and reviewing options to keep the service going.


The Board received and noted the updates.




Any Other Business

To consider any other business raised by the Chair.


David Redgewell advised that the Western Gateway Transport Board has a bus and coach study, which he has discussed with the chair of the South West Transport Board and which he believes should be picked up for the whole of the southwest.  There will be a public meeting on 22 June via Zoom or Teams where they will discuss the buses and coaches in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset; he hopes that the executive member for transport in Somerset will attend, as Baroness Vere is looking at regional transport boards for extra funding, and a push for further bus money in rural southwest England could provide dividends.


Date of the Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for 24 May 2022 at 10:00 am.


The next meeting is scheduled for 24 May 2022 at 10:00 a.m. via Microsoft Teams.