Meeting documents

SCC Bus Advisory Board
Thursday, 17th February, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Virtually via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Michael Bryant at Email: mbryant@somerset.gov.uk  Democratic Services via email:  democraticservices@somerset.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

18.

Welcome and Apologies for Absence

To welcome attendees and receive any apologies from Board members.

Minutes:

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 Owen Clark of Dorset Council.

 

19.

Minutes of the Last Meeting pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To review and accept the minutes of the meeting held on 16 December 2021 as an accurate record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting on 23 November 2021 were accepted as an accurate record of the meeting, aside from changing Glenda Burrows to Glen Burrows.

 

20.

Public Question Time

Public questions should be submitted in writing no less than three clear working days before the meeting (in this case by 5 pm on Friday 11th February 2022) to democraticservices@somerset.gov.uk.

Minutes:

Public questions should be submitted in writing no later than three clear working days before the meeting to democraticservices@somerset.gov.uk. 

 

 

There were three public questions from David Redgewell and two from Nigel Behan; the first three were read by Michael Bryant, Governance Specialist – Democratic Services, while the last two were read by Nigel Behan himself:

 

Questions from David Redgewell:

1)    In view of the need to make progress for passengers, including disabled customers, we believe that Somerset County Council, the Transport Authority, and Somerset West and Taunton Council should draw a design brief for a new bus and coach station for Taunton as a regional interchange for the bus and coach network, and that any temporary use should not be a car park or other structure.  There is no reason to delay the building of a modern bus and coach station like the Gloucester transport hub or Exeter bus station, which have a waiting area, covered walkway, café, disabled toilet and changing area, and tourist information offices/travel centres.  Such a station would also allow for coach interchanges at Gateway Park and Ride.  We would also like the Councils to look at a temporary bus and coach station set at Tower Street bus station, similar to those set up in Bristol and Bath.

2)    What provision is being made under the Transport Act 2000 for Somerset County Council as the local transport authority to make bus timetables available on all of the County bus stops, shelters, bus and coach stations, and interchange facilities, similar to those in Devon and Gloucestershire, which are maintained by the parish and town councils with the county councils updating passenger information?  This is not dependent on Bus Back Better funding, as this service is provided already in those counties.

3)    Frome Town Council and Mendip District Council are planning to carry out Green Breather days once a month on Saturdays, when the town centres are closed to private cars.  We understand that buses, coaches, and taxis will use a bus gate, and stopping arrangements will be maintained in the town centres and at Cork Street coach station.  What discussions have taken place with the bus and coach operators, i.e., National Express coaches, First Group buses, Faresaver buses, Frome bus company, Libra Travel, Wiltshire council (as transport authority), and the mayor for the West of England mayoral combined Transport Authority, Mayor Dan Norris, as these authorities fund public bus services?

 

(A fourth question from David Redgewell will be answered with a written response)

 

Mike O’Dowd-Jones, Strategic Manager for Commissioning-Highways and Transport, responded, saying that the with respect to the first question, a funding request for Taunton Bus Station has been included in the BSIP ask, so we really need to wait and see what money is available from government for this in the first instance. In the interim, we have commissioned WSP to undertake a further study in terms of facilities required within a bus station provision and accessibility to the site. They will also develop  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Update on the Appointment of the Bus User & Stakeholder (BUS) Group Chair & Vice Chair

To receive the update.

Minutes:

The Chair invited Michael Bryant, Governance Manager – Democratic Services, to advise on this matter; he noted that the Bus Users and Stakeholders Group had met on 8th February and had appointed Peter Travis as Chair and Tony Reese as Vice Chair.  The Bus Advisory Board will work with them, and further meetings of the Group will be scheduled.

 

 

22.

Update on EP Timeline / DfT Announcement

To receive the update.

Minutes:

The Chair invited Natasha Bates, Service Manager for Commissioning-Highways and Transport, who noted that the original deadline for EPs was the end of April.  Following an announcement from the DfT in January, they have now extended the deadline to enable Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) to submit a draft EP by the end of April 2022.  They suggested that if an LTA has not yet started their consultations, they should pause the process.  As Somerset is already a considerable way into the process, we are continuing with the original timeline and waiting for the funding to be announced.  The original amount of £3 billion has now been reduced to £1.4 billion, with only approximately £1.2 for BSIP.  The funding should be announced by the end of February, but regardless of how it is distributed, the DfT has advised that all EPs should:

 

·         Commit to the relevant authorities to continue providing existing bus priority measures

·         Implement any no-cost or low-cost improvements including bus passenger charters and quality information for passengers; in this respect, we have the New Think travel portal, which is now live and being rolled out to various groups before a wider launch, and provides a single source for bus passenger information

·         Include a bus passenger charter, which is being reviewed and will be discussed with the Chair of the BUS Group to determine how best to involve bus passengers and stakeholders

·         Be flexible; Section 5 of our EP allows the incorporation of enhancements if funding is available for them through a bespoke variation mechanism.

There were no questions from the Board or other attendees.

 

The Bus Advisory Board received and noted the EP timeline update and DfT announcement regarding funding

 

23.

Formal Consultation Process Feedback

To receive the report (report to follow).

Minutes:

The Chair invited Tim Reynolds, Associate from WSP, to present the report.  He noted that they have not had many responses to the consultation from statutory consultees, and the consultation closes later today; those they have received include Avon and Somerset Police, CMA, Transport Focus, Wedmore Community Bus, persons from the Somerset Bus Partnership, and Dorset Council.  Everyone who responded is supportive of the EP plan with no objections, and they understand that it depends on funding.  Avon and Somerset Police want the emergency services also involved in the BUS Group; there has been a good response from young people, who were happy to see their feedback on courtesy and cleanliness included; Wedmore Community Bus wants there to be access to information for non-IT savvy users; the CMA said that we need responsive transport without disenfranchising smaller operators when it comes to ticketing and such; and Dorset Council wanted to promote cross-boundary services and cost-sharing of services in regional areas as regards digital demand-responsive services.  All of the comments were aimed at assisting and strengthening current commitments.  They have not yet heard from the Traffic Commissioner, but it is to be noted that there is no requirement for statutory consultees to respond. The final report will be made available to everyone.  There will need to be further consultation on both the EP and the BSIP as we go forward, with any necessary changes being made through the bespoke variation mechanism, although there will be no need to change what has already been established or re-do any of the process.

 

There were no questions from the Board or other attendees.

 

The Board received and noted the report on the Formal Consultation Process Feedback.

 

 

24.

Process for Making and Signing the EP

To receive the verbal report.

Minutes:

The Chair invited Mike O’Dowd-Jones, Strategic Manager for Commissioning-Highways and Transport, to make the verbal report.   He said that they had made great progress in getting to the current position, but now there is the need for a firm process for signing the EP Scheme and Plan, which will take place in March.  The recommendation is to delegate authority to him to complete the EP formally, after the Cabinet approves on 16th March the EP Plan and Scheme, the submission of the EP to The Department of Transportation, and the bespoke variation mechanism.  They are still finalising and taking legal advice on the precise method of signing, but they plan to email the EP to operators to be signed during the period 16-31 March so that it is completed before 1st April; therefore, he asks that operators have a designated signor at hand during that time.  There is some question about whether legally the EP needs to be signed, but it is sensible to do so as a partnership agreement.  He will provide more information in the coming weeks.

 

There were no questions from the Board or other attendees.

 

The Board received and noted the verbal report on the signing of the EP.

 

25.

Bus Passenger Charter pdf icon PDF 176 KB

To receive the draft report and discuss.

Minutes:

The Chair invited Tim Reynolds, Associate for WSP, to present the draft Bus Passenger Charter.  He stated that these charters are one of the things that the DfT wants Local Authorities to continue with regardless of the allocation of funding and noted that our draft charter has drawn on best practice from other organisations, such as Transport Focus, an independent body that has helped greatly with both the EP and the BISP.  The draft charter, which has been circulated for input and feedback, should ideally be only two to three pages long.  Not all groups have a charter, while some of them point mainly to operators’ conditions of carriage which deal with the conduct and obligations of the operators and of the passengers.  The charter needs to be kept simple; our draft charter is a bit long and needs to be discussed with operators to understand and create the conditions of carriage document.  This draft is only a start and will be made more concise after today’s suggestions and comments, then it will be circulated to operators and the BUS Group for consultation.  After finalisation, the operators and the Communications team will work together to announce and publicise the charter, making it accessible to all.

 

The Chair invited attendees to ask questions.  Peter Travis advised that he welcomes the charter, which at this stage is more of a scoping document; he asserted that it will have to be shorter and in an easily understandable format for users, that the question of compensation with respect to conditions of carriage needs careful consideration, and that he has a major concern over the lack of any printed format for the charter being stipulated.  He noted that older people, who are a very important demographic amongst bus users, often don’t have mobile phones (half of those over 65 do not, nor does 1 person in 8 over the age of 55), and that Somerset has some of the lowest internet use in the country, with West Somerset the third lowest in the U.K.  Therefore, bus operators and the County Council need to provide their loyal customers with timetable information on paper, like Wiltshire, who has suggested that 75% of bus stops have paper timetables.  It is a necessity to bear the marketing costs for this and essential to put this in the chart, while also asking that operators be required to put timetable information on paper.  In relation to this, Adam Hawksworth mentioned that Buses of Somerset produces a comprehensive paper booklet and maintains their own roadside timetables.  It was responded that these were all great points, which will be noted during work with operators and passenger groups on the charter, although the BSIP does have a commitment to paper timetables.

 

Glen Burrows stated that she is concerned about the section on timetables and fares where it advises passengers to ask the bus driver for this information, as she believes that this underestimates the stress and time involved for the driver to provide this.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Any Other Business

To discuss any other business.

Minutes:

The Chair did not have any other items of business to introduce.  Mike O’Dowd-Jones wanted to mention that he was very pleased with the level of engagement today from the operators, which lends itself to good collaboration and partnership working.  David Redgewell wished to advise that the Mayor of West England/WECA will be holding a meeting on 8th March, to which he hopes our Board will send a representative.

 

 

27.

Date of the Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held virtually at 10:00 am on 14 March 2022.

Minutes:

The next meeting is scheduled for 14th March at 10:00 a.m. via Microsoft Teams.