SCC Bus Advisory Board
Thursday, 17th February, 2022 10.00 am
- Meeting of Bus Advisory Board, Thursday 17th February 2022 10.00 am (Item 20.)
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 email@example.com.
Public questions should be submitted in writing no later than three clear working days before the meeting to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 a ‘commercial strategy’ in respect of the bus station operation and they will review the interim proposals for utilisation of the bus station currently being progressed to ensure they are compatible with the preferred future scheme insofar as this is possible. The current facility is owned by Somerset West and Taunton, so we cannot dictate what the District Council does on an interim basis.
Regarding the second question, the bus stations and bus shelters across the County are owned and maintained by either the District, Town or Parish Councils. In terms of timetable provision, Somerset County Council work with operators to ensure that timetable information is provided at all stops where there is a facility to display this information, such as a pole or bus shelter. Some stops are in remote locations where it is not possible to hang a timetable display case. Unfortunately, incidents do occur where timetable casing gets vandalised but if it is reported to us then we can make arrangements to replace this. If any issues relating to timetable information are reported to us, then we will work with the operator to resolve this.
Regarding the third question, our Traffic Management Team attended an initial meeting with the Town Council last week and understood that this is something that they wanted to do once a month as a trial initially. It is a short closure from Cork Street to Justice Lane which is about 250m. The Traffic Management Officer in attendance raised the issue of bus access which we understand has yet to be determined but the Town Council were going to discuss this with the bus operators. The Town Council have been asked to prepare an event management plan and risk assessments, but this is still some way off being agreed and would require all stakeholder feedback to be taken into account.
As for Question 4, the written response states that Somerset has written to Baroness Vere expressing our concerns that the Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) is due to end 5th April 2022 and have asked her to consider the options for extending this. We have also written to the Treasury to raise our concerns with them as well. This is in-line with the ATCO position who have also written to Baroness Vere and the Treasury and have urged all LAs to do the same.
Questions from Nigel Behan:
1) The paper [the SCC EP Feedback Report] refers to Dorset Council responding; did any of the other Local Transport Authorities) such as Devon, Wiltshire, etc. provide any response? And did SCC respond to the equivalent consultations from the surrounding LTAs? If so, can you publish the responses from SCC?
2) How will the EP help to secure the aims of the following guidance with measurable and practical concrete outcomes so that bus users can understand the extent of successful improvements : "BSIPs should then describe in outline how you and operators propose to deliver the key goals of the Bus Strategy in your area. These are making services:
· more frequent, with turn-up-and-go services on major routes and feeder or demand-responsive services to lower-density places
· faster and more reliable, with bus priority wherever necessary and where there is room
· cheaper, with more low, flat fares in towns and cities, lower point-to-point fares elsewhere, and more daily price capping everywhere.
· more comprehensive, with overprovision on a few corridors reduced to boost provision elsewhere and better services in the evenings and weekends, not necessarily with conventional buses
· easier to understand, with simpler routes, common numbering, co-ordinated timetable change dates, good publicity, and comprehensive information online
· easier to use, with common tickets, passes and daily capping across all operators, simpler fares, contactless payment and protection of bus stations
· better integrated with other modes and each other, including more bus-rail interchange and integration and inter-bus transfers."
Mike O’Dowd-Jones, Strategic Manager for Commissioning-Highways and Transport, responded to the first question by noting that all neighbouring authorities had been invited to respond; aside from Dorset Council, no such responses were received. The County Council is happy to respond to any other requests they receive, and their response to Dorset Council will be published after the consultation closes.
Responding to the second question regarding how the EP secures the aims listed, he observed that the BSIP has been prepared around those goals, and the goals have been linked to targets. There will be six-monthly updates on these targets. If any revisions are necessary, these can be made after the funding is known.