Agenda and minutes

Venue: Virtual

Contact: Democratic Services  Email:


No. Item


Welcome and Apologies for Absence

To welcome attendees and receive any apologies for absence.


An apology for absence was received from Rebecca Mantyk (First South).



Membership Updates

To receive a verbal update.


Natasha Bates, Service Manager – Transport Commissioning advised that there had been some changes to membership of the Board. The following was noted:


Rebecca Mantyk would be representing First South

Darren Hewlett would be representing Dartline (Go South West)

Ed Hopkins would be representing WECA

Martyn Starnes would be representing Mendip Community Transport

Sunita Mills, Interim Head of Transportation, Somerset Council would be replacing Mike O’Dowd Jones

Lisa Bentley, Public Transport Manager, Somerset Council would be replacing Ian Bell




Election of Vice-Chair

To elect a Vice-Chair of the Bus Advisory Board.


Sunita Mills, Interim Head of Transportation was nominated by Cllr Richard Wilkins and seconded by Peter Travis.


No other nominations were received so Sunita Mills was duly elected as Vice-Chair of the Bus Advisory Board.


Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 128 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 17 October 2023 as an accurate representation of the meeting.


The minutes of the meeting held on 17 October 2023 were approved.


Public Question Time pdf icon PDF 44 KB

To receive any public questions or statements submitted three clear working days in advance of the meeting.


Questions were received from Linda Snelling, Rosa Kell and Andy Strong.  The questions submitted and responses provided are as follows:


Question 1

The new Taunton Park & Ride contract includes a reduction in frequency on Mondays to Fridays to every 20 minutes. It is generally accepted across the country that a 15-minute interval is the minimum service level required to make a Park & Ride service attractive to car drivers.


There is a complicated relationship between Park & Ride fares, service levels and town centre parking charges. Now that Somerset Council controls all of those, it is in a position to set each of them in such a way that incentivises use of the Park & Ride service. This will be particularly important if funding to continue the subsidised £1 fare is not forthcoming.


Will the Council review parking charges in Taunton and consider the relationship between them and Park & Ride fares and frequency, with a view to incentivising use of the Park & Ride service?



There are a number of Park & Ride Services across the country that currently operate at 20-minute frequencies.


As part of the decision approved at Executive on 6th December 2023, to award the Park & Ride contract, it was also agreed that the Integrated Parking Strategy for Taunton (included as an Appendix to the report) would be adopted and implemented. The Strategy is aimed at reducing demand for town centre parking and encouraging greater use of the Park & Ride and local bus services. More detailed work on the parking charges will commence in due course.


Question 2

The enhanced partnership scheme (paragraph 4.7) states:

“Bus Operators providing services within the Taunton Town Fare Zone will use Tap On/Tap Off (TOTO) technology from quarter three of financial year 2023-24 and will work with SCC to develop a roll-out programme for vehicles used on routes within the Taunton Town Fare Zone.” 


We are now past the committed start date but no operators are using Tap On/Tap Off technology in Taunton yet.


Please give full details of the roll-out programme.



First South have confirmed that they have started the initialising process but there have been some unexpected delays. It will take some time to complete the process, but they anticipate this being done by July.


We understand that Council Ticketer machines are capable of Tap-on/Tap-off but as many people will be aware, we have had technical issues with contactless payments, which has been our priority and now that is finally resolved, we will now explore the Tap-on/Tap-off option with Ticketer.


Question 3

The frequency of Taunton town services 1, 6 and 7 in the morning peak on Mondays to Fridays was reduced on 27 November 2023 to facilitate the saving of one bus between 0750 and 0910. The Bus Advisory Board was not consulted on this at its last meeting on 12 October.


The enhanced partnership scheme (paragraph 4.11), states that: “When contemplating making changes to frequency of services included within the Enhanced Partnership Scheme, Bus Operators will consult with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.


Variation of Somerset's Enhanced Partnership (EP) Scheme pdf icon PDF 5 MB

Report attached. 


Proposed updates to the EP Scheme are highlighted in green for ease of reference.


Natasha Bates, Service Manager – Transport Commissioning explained that as part of the funding stipulation from the Department of Transport (DfT), the local transport authority was required to update the Enhanced Partnership (EP) Scheme and resubmit it to the DfT in order to release the 2024/25 BSIP funding tranche.  There was a requirement for the EP to include a table of funded schemes which sets out what has been funded, what the outputs would be, who is responsible for delivery and the deadlines.  She advised that the plan section of the document could not be updated without wider formal consultation with stakeholders and operators.  As the BSIP was due for review by 12th June, the plan section of the EP would remain unchanged and be amended following the review.


Natasha Bates outlined the proposed changes to the scheme element as highlighted in green in the document circulated with the agenda.


In response to a question regarding Taunton Transport Hub, Natasha Bates confirmed that work was taking place to move the project forward.  She agreed to forward an update and the project timescales to David Redgewell.


At the conclusion of the item, the Operators approved the proposed changes, as highlighted in green, to Somerset’s Enhanced (EP) Scheme through the ‘bespoke variation mechanism’.



Timetable Changes Proposed for 15th April 2024

Operators to present their proposals.


The Chair invited Operators to present timetable changes proposed for 15th April 2024.


With the aid of a powerpoint presentation, Dan Ashworth of First West of England outlined proposed changes to the following services:


·       Service 20

·       Service D2 & D2x

·       Service 171, 173 & 174

·       Service 55, 77, 77a

·       Service 374, 375, 376 & 376a


Board members were given the opportunity to ask questions.  A number of questions/comments were raised in relation to the following:


·       Connectivity with Service 21.

·       Connectivity with rail services and where possible identifying links with bus/rail interchange and making timetables clearer to identify routes that stop near railway stations.

·       Somerset Bus Partnership were keen to meet with First West of England regarding the details of the ongoing timetables and following the outcome of discussions with BANES.

·       The need for discussions with WECA/BANES on the naming of the Bath Interchange.

·       The need for double decker buses on route 77.

·       Strode College timings.

·       Concerns relating to the earliest bus from Yeovil to Wells being at 8.55am and the 7.30am being missed off the timetable.

·       Query regarding the timetable for Service 126.


Dan Ashworth agreed to circulate a copy of the presentation slides which included the proposed timetables.


With the aid of a powerpoint presentation, Terrance James of First South outlined planned network changes to the following services:


·       21/21a Taunton – Bridgwater – Burnham on Sea

·       22/22a/X22 Taunton – Wellington – Tiverton

·       51 Yeovil Town Service

·       EXMO Exmoor Coaster


Board members were given the opportunity to ask questions.  A number of questions/comments were raised which included the following:


·       The possibility of re-considering the finish date of 28th September on the Exmoor Coaster as this seemed to be quite early.  A finish date at the end of October would be able to include the half term school holidays.

·       The need for the 21/21a to connect onto Weston-super-Mare.


He then proceeded to outline planned network changes due to the end of the BSIP Funding period on the following services:


·       25 Taunton – Dulverton

·       28/X28 Taunton - Minehead

·       54 Yeovil - Taunton

·       58 Yeovil - Wincanton


Terrance James agreed to circulate the presentation slides and proposed timetables following the meeting.


The Chair expressed his extreme disappointment over the lateness in receiving the proposed changes particularly of the intention to withdraw services 54 and 58 and the lower frequency of services on the 25 and 28. He said that these were important routes, and the proposals would have a huge impact on people’s lives.  There had been no opportunity for discussions to be held with Somerset Council and this was unacceptable.  He suggested that an emergency meeting be held between First Bus and Somerset Council to discuss the proposals.


John Perrett, Service Manager – Transporting Somerset, said that a lot of work had been undertaken to try and raise numbers on the four under threat routes and he understood that numbers had increased on all four services. He referred to the lateness of the proposals presented and said that there had been no  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


Update from Operators on £1 fare, Government £2 fare and any other relevant updates

To receive any updates from operators.


Terrance James of First Bus provided a powerpoint presentation.  The following was noted:


·       Steady growth continued on the £1 fare in Taunton from June through to November.  Whilst there was an expected drop in December, this was up 80% on December 2022.

·       In terms of the Government £2 fare on single trips, there had been steady growth.  A big proportion of trips was being seen on the 58.

·       With regard to Somerset Passenger Recovery, overall passenger volumes were down from 21% in October to 19%.  There had been a slowdown in passenger volumes since the beginning of December.  Year on year growth in the past four weeks had been approximately 4%.


Thomas Hughes, Operations Manager for First West of England Bus advised that there had generally been an increase in growth from October to mid- December with an expected dip over the Christmas and New Year period.  There had been a slower start to year as people returned to work from the holidays.


BSIP Review 2024

To receive a verbal update.


With the aid of a powerpoint presentation, Natasha Bates, Service Manager – Transport Commissioning gave an update on the BSIP (Bus Service Improvement Plan) Review 2024.   The following points were noted:


·       The original BSIP was produced in 2021.

·       A high-level review was undertaken in 2022.

·       The 2023 review was postponed at the request of the DfT due to new guidance being released.

·       The 2024 review was required to be submitted by 12th June 2024.

·       The review of the BSIP was not a bidding document but was linked to the release of the 2024/25 funding.

·       The key themes that the DfT were looking for in the review included:

-        Updating baseline data to reflect 2023/24 position.

-        Setting out the improvement programme for 2024/25.

-        Plans and ambitions beyond 2025 linked to the Local Transport Plan.

·       Growing patronage remains the overall aim which related to 12 objectives set out by the DfT.

·       There would be new reporting requirements linked to Bus Connectivity Assessments.

·       There was updated guidance on Bus Passenger Charters.

·       A future review was expected in 2025 and then less frequently.


Natasha Bates explained that the next step involved looking at all the guidance and what was required to be undertaken to meet the deadline for the 2024 review.  She advised that operators and stakeholders would be engaged in the process and the BSIP Review would also go through Somerset Council’s governance process.



To receive a verbal update.


Natasha Bates, Service Manager – Transport Commissioning reported that a bid had been submitted to the DfT in partnership with First South and an announcement on the bid outcomes was expected in March.  If the bid were to be successful, this would see 25 zero emission vehicles operating out of the First South Taunton depot and would be a combination of single and double deck vehicles.  The bid was to operate these vehicles on services 21, 22 and 28, and Taunton town services 1 and 2.


Update from the Chair of the Bus User and Stakeholders Group

To receive a verbal update.


Peter Travis, Chair of the Bus User and Stakeholder Group was invited to provide an update.  His points included the following:


·       The proposed withdrawal of the 54 service Yeovil – Taunton by First South was shocking news and was extremely concerning meaning more uncertainty for bus users.  Somerset Bus Partnership were willing to support Somerset Council in any way possible with their discussions with First South.

·       There needed to be a solution to depots in Somerset.  It was felt that First South should be openly sharing their plans for the Yeovil bus depot.

·       Concerns over the reliability of bus services, not just the cancellation of services but also individual bus services being cancelled due to unreliable and old buses.

·       Somerset Council declared a climate emergency four years ago and one of the significant actions to take was to move people away from using the private car onto buses.  A trend in this direction had not been seen.

·       The Somerset Bus Partnership would be supporting and helping the bus companies as much as possible.

·       In April, the Somerset Bus Partnership would be running 22 bus stalls in every town in Somerset giving out printed timetables.  A lot of established bus users relied on printed bus timetables.  First South had agreed to supply Buses of Somerset timetable booklets.  Any other operators who were able to provide timetables was welcomed.

·       It was felt that further promotion of the Bus Passenger Charter was required by Somerset Council through its social media channels and press releases.


Any Other Business

To raise any other relevant issues from the Chair or Board members.


David Redgewell highlighted that there was a West Of England review of Westlink currently being undertaken which linked into Axbridge and Weston-super-Mare.


Date of Next Meeting

To note that the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 23 April 2024 at 10.00am.


The Board noted that the next meeting was scheduled to be held on Tuesday 23rd April 2024.