SCC Bus Advisory Board
Thursday, 14th July, 2022 11.00 am
Venue: Virtual via Microsoft Teams
Welcome and Apologies for Absence
To introduce the new Chair of the Board, Cllr Mike Rigby.
There were apologies from Josh Strickland.
Cllr Mike Rigby introduced himself as the new Chair.
To review the minutes and approve them as an accurate record.
The minutes were accepted as an accurate record of the meeting held on 24 May 2022.
Public Question Time
To receive any relevant questions from the public. These must be received by 5:00 pm three clear working days before the meeting.
Two questions had been received on behalf of the South West Transport Network and Railfuture Severnside, which the Clerk of the Board read, as below, with Natasha Bates, , providing the responses.
Question 1: What progress is being?made in the county with First Group plc, South West Buses of Somerset to look to restore a 7am to 8pm service?Monday to Saturday,?especially on vital bus links across the county? Especially from Taunton to Yeovil bus and coach station via Langport?and Somerton Services 54;?Bridgwater bus and coach station to Wells bus and coach station via?Glastonbury and Street 75; Taunton to?Wells bus and coach station via Street and Glastonbury?Bus 29. These are all journeys, are all services with no connection working for passengers from Somerton to Yeovil bus and coach station?on Bus 77?or from bus service 29 and 75?into service 376 to Wells bus and coach station. ?Both these routes require through ticketing.?
Response: The proposal to implement a core 7am to 7pm network across the County was part of the original Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) bid. Unfortunately, the revenue element of the indicative BSIP funding was not sufficient to support this proposal being taken forward. This still remains one of our longer term aims through the BSIP process, but we will need to look for alternative funding streams as and when they arise, although there is nothing immediate in the pipeline.
Question 2: What progress is being made?on a marketing strategy for bus services?and public transport across the historic county of Somerset? Unity Somerset, North Somerset, BANES and West of England mayoral combined transport authority.? Booklets and bus stop maintenance and publicity, including marketing campaigns for bus drivers such as at the Bristol Pride festival, Taunton Pride festival or Burnham on Sea festival.
Response: Our Communications Team have started to create a marketing strategy for public buses with the aim of this being implemented from the end of July and continuing throughout the summer and will also lead into the ‘Catch the Bus Week’ coming up in September. Peter Travis, the Chair of the Bus User and Stakeholder Group (also a member of the Board) is also engaged and supporting us with this campaign, which we really appreciate. We will also be liaising with operators and ensuring a co-ordinated and joined up approach.
To introduce new members.
Natasha Bates welcomed Mr Stuart Moon of Dartline; Dartline provides cross-border services between Devon and Somerset, so they will be added to the Board if their membership is approved today. Then the next time the Enhanced Partnership (EP) Scheme is varied, they will be included.
The Board approved the membership of Dartline.
Network Review - Updates from Operators
To receive updates from bus operators.
Natasha Bates introduced the topic. As part of the Local Transport Fund (LTF), which is the final tranche of covid-related funding from the government for bus services, we were required to undertake a network review with operators by 1st July. During the review meetings held to look at the commercial network, operators indicated that they are still struggling in some areas, with passenger numbers at only 65-70% of pre-covid levels. It is still too early for operators to make their final decisions, but we are anticipating some further changes to the commercial network in October. At the moment, the operators want to see what the patronage will be like over the next several weeks. A 70-day registration period begins around mid-August, and as plans develop, SCC will continue to work with operators in order to understand in more detail the changes being proposed, as well as agreeing to mitigating action where appropriate.
Mr Hawksworth of First Southwest gave his update. They have draft plans for changes in October based on patronage over the past few months; they are encouraged by the plans in the BSIP but are waiting as long as possible to take decisions. The recent network changes have taken effect, and he does not anticipate very big changes in October. Mr Redgewell commented that people in Yeovil are very unhappy over missed connections, with some having to make the return journey by train; he asserted that the role of the transport authority should be commissioning, not cutting services. He declared that there should be a public meeting in Yeovil. Mr Hawksworth responded that First Southwest had noted these comments and were trying to resolve problems with the 54 and 77 services. The Chair also stated that Mr Redgewell’s comments had been taken on board, and attempts were being made to rectify the issues. Peter Travis reiterated the points he had made previously about Somerton and the problems that issues there had caused for Yeovil passengers; he will be meeting with them in the next few days and agrees that there needs to be a public meeting.
Mr Pymm and Mr Hanson of First West of England stated that they are in the process of working out changes to take effect on 9 October; they will submit these by the end of the month. There are two main points to consider: First, it has been very difficult across the network to recover passenger levels, and there has also been a change from pre-Covid as far as the demand and habits of users, so operators have to change. Second, their absolute priority is to have reliable services, which they feel they are not delivering at the moment with respect to punctuality; there is a driver shortage problem, so all changes made in the autumn will focus on the level of service that it is possible to deliver with the number of available drivers. As with many operators, the problem in the West of England is attracting drivers, with staffing ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
Any Other Business
To raise any other relevant items of business.
There was no other business.
Date of Next Meeting
The date of the next scheduled meeting is 12th September 2022.
The next Bus Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for 12 September, 2022 [this was subsequently delayed until 13 October, 2022].