Meeting documents

SCC Bus Advisory Board
Tuesday, 23rd November, 2021 10.00 am

  • Meeting of Bus Advisory Board, Tuesday 23rd November 2021 10.00 am (Item 6.)

‘‘Draft copy of the EP Plan and Scheme. Text shown in ‘red’ relates to the guidance from the DfT and has been left in for information, this text will be removed prior to finalisation of the Plan and Scheme"


The associate representative from WSP continued with his presentation on the Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme, which has six themes:


·         Transport decarbonisation

·         More extensive and frequent network

·         Reduced travel costs

·         Improved network coordination between all travel modes

·         Easy access and reliability

·         Comfortable network with improved facilities


It was highlighted that the EP is a means by which to deliver the BSIP following a statutory process in the DfT guidance, which uses the Bus Services Act of 2017 and updates from the National Bus Strategy, and that the EP Plan provides a vision and objective for services while the EP Scheme provides precise details of how the vision and objective will be achieved (e.g., bus stops, targets, etc.).


The Board were informed that an important aspect of the EP is the formal operator objection period of at least 28 days following preparation of the EP Plan and Scheme and notification to operators.  It was noted that, as the timescale is very tight, any unforeseen amendments or changes must be avoided; this is why meetings and other engagement between the operators and the local transport authority (SCC in this case) are ongoing.  The presentation then moved to the Formal Consultation, which will include all operators affected, organisations representing local passengers, other local authorities that would be affected by the proposals, Traffic Commissioners, the Chief of Police for each area, Transport Focus, the Competition and Market Authority, and any other persons as the authority thinks fit.


In the EP Scheme, the obligations of the LTA involve facilities (new physical assets) and measures (actions to support the BSIP such as lowering fares and subsidies).  All of this is subject to the aware of sufficient funding through the BSIP process, which SCC will provide.  The obligations of the bus operators will be proposed once the EP Scheme is fully set out. 


It was then noted that:

·         In the EP Scheme, the obligations of the LTA involve facilities (new physical assets) and measures (actions to support the BSIP, such as lowering fares and subsidies.  All of this is subject to the award of sufficient funding through the BSIP process, which SCC will provide.  The obligations of the bus operators will be proposed once the EP Scheme is fully set out.

·         LTA facilities include the above-mentioned more extensive and frequent network (priorities include addressing reliability and punctuality), safe and comfortable network (introducing a bus stop design guide and hierarchy model), and facilities which can provide wider access to information across the network. 

·         LTA measures will include SCC support of operators towards zero emissions to achieve transport decarbonisation, seeking a range of measures such as digital Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) to meet priorities for a more extensive and frequent network, support of operators for simpler fares and promotion of growth in order to reduce travel costs, working with operators to ensure acceptance of contactless payments for all fares by April 2022 as well as launching the Think Travel information portal in order to improve accessibility and reliability, support of new mobility hubs to improve the coordination of all travel modes, and the establishment of measures to ensure the safety, comfort, security and confidence of users.

·         Operator obligations will include vehicle standards, timetables changes to improve coordination between travel modes, and improvements to ticketing via contactless payments and simple fares, enhancement of frequency, limiting frequency (i.e., operators cannot change services included in the EP without consulting the Bus Advisory Board), and coordination with light and heavy rail services, coordination of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) and other types of road transport.

·         Variation mechanisms will allow for any change to the EP Scheme to be made by the proposal of a Board member, which will be followed by consideration of the Board and, if there is the unanimous support of the operators and SCC, approval by the Board.


A discussion of the presentation followed; the Service Manager-Transport Commissioning, Natasha Bates, spoke on the portal, which is due to be launched imminently.  Questions and comments followed, including:


·         It was enquired what would happen if only part of the funding were received, and if there were certain parts of the BSIP that were considered essential.  It was responded that there are 24 line items which are ranked, and it is not certain how DfT will distribute the funds as it could be for specific items or it could be overall funding.  Once the funding is announced, the priority order of proposals may need to be re-visited.


·         It was suggested that the bus drivers need to be referenced during consultation with operators; it was replied that this should absolutely be done, especially as the drivers often have very useful information.


·         It was asked if the visually impaired could obtain paper copies of the slides; the Service Manager-Governance and Democratic Services will ensure that these are provided, and noted that Democratic Services could be contacted for any other requirements of this type.


·         It was noted that there are no buses still running when late theatre performances end, and it was queried whether there could be a circular route covering villages as well as Taunton town centre.  It was responded that if the funding is received, there will in fact be a core network plus later evening services daily until 11 pm using Digital Response Services, as leisure and social events are a key in the BSIP. 


·         It was suggested that dropped kerbs for wheelchair users should be included in the EP Scheme for equality and diversity purposes, that the Falcon service should be included as it is the only 24/7 service in Somerset, that First Bus should better coordinate its services with trains, that bus stations in larger towns like Taunton should have required standards such as toilets and waiting facilities, and that certain corridors and cross-boundary services should be extended.  It was replied that everything mentioned has been identified and covered in the EP Plan, but it will all depend on the funding allocation.  It was added that there are already national legal requirements for equality and diversity.


The Chair noted that there seemed to be a broad consensus for the EP Plan and Scheme moving forward; this is the initial plan and scheme, and the consensus is that this is the method that should be moved forward.


The Bus Advisory Board received and discussed the presentation and agreed that the EP Plan and Scheme should move forward.


Supporting documents: