SCC Bus Advisory Board
Friday, 2nd December, 2022 10.00 am
- Meeting of Bus Advisory Board, Friday 2nd December 2022 10.00 am (Item 65.)
To receive the proposals and to ask Operators on the Board to formally agree the proposals.
John Perrett, Service Manager-Transporting Somerset, stated that they had been working on these proposals for the Taunton area since the last meeting and looking at the commercial bus network where there will likely be sufficient usage. All of these proposed routes are operated by Buses of Somerset.
· #1 Town Service – This is the busiest route in Taunton which goes out to Priorswood services; we want to extend it to the Silk Mills Park and Ride in order to bring the park and ride sites into the network without running this specific park and ride service after 7:30 pm but rather linking it to existing services in town. The #1 will run hourly with the last bus from Taunton to Silk Mills at 10:35 and from Taunton to Priorswood at 11:00 pm. All of the journeys will also serve Musgrove Park Hospital.
· #21 Taunton-Bridgwater – This will be an hourly service with the last bus from Bridgwater at 10:15 and the last bus from Taunton at 11:04 pm, and it will be extended to start and finish at Musgrove Park Hospital.
· #22 Taunton-Wellington – An hourly service with the last bus from Taunton at 11:05 and the last bus from Wellington at 11:31 pm; it will also serve Musgrove Park.
· #28 Taunton-Minehead – This is a much longer route and will not be hourly, but there will be two additional return journeys from Taunton at 10:30 and from Minehead at 10:15 pm. On the last three journeys, there will be a diversion via Cotford St Luke and Norton Fitzwarren in order to serve more heavily populated areas on the outskirts of Taunton.
· #30 Taunton-Chard – There will be three journeys added with the last bus from Chard at 9:11 and the last bus from Taunton at 10:10 pm including a diversion to the Gateway Park and Ride site, in order that people can leave their cars at the Park and Ride during the day and still have the gates open when they come back in the evening.
There is no fixed date yet for the introduction of these services, but it will be sometime in January 2023. Discussions are underway with our property services team regarding the planning permission for extending hours for the Park and Ride. Also, Buses of Somerset are making other changes to their timetables as well, so it is hoped to have all services/changes introduced on the same date.
The Chair thanked John Perrett for this very exciting news, which will create the ability for thousands of people to move between the big population centres in the evening. He invited Board members to comment; David Redgewell asked if, given the shortage of bus drivers in the southwest, there will be enough drivers for these additional routes. John Perrett replied that he had raised this question himself and been assured that there would be. David Redgewell then suggested that the Chair meet with RMT, as it is always useful for the Chair to have a dialogue with the unions that cover the bus industry. The Chair confirmed that he would be more than happy to do so at the appropriate time. Tony Reese commented that these evening services were a wonderful addition to the current services, although the finish times looked a bit early.
The Chair thanked everyone for their work and noted these changes will boost the nocturnal economies of the towns involved, particularly when the evening services are combined with the capped fares that are soon to come. He observed that obviously these new services will entail major changes to timetables, and he asked if anyone from First West of England could confirm if the timetables for the D2 services at bus shelters had been changed, especially as the online timetables were updated a week ago. It is necessary to ensure that staff at Musgrave Park Hospital are fully aware of the new times, as parking there has been a big issue for a long time. Hopefully, connecting evening services with the Silk Mills Park and Ride will have a huge impact on hospital staff’s ability to park and get into work, but he needs a commitment that these services will be very well advertised as they go forward. Adam Hawksworth, of First South West trading as Buses of Somerset, said that he could confirm that they are planning to produce a printed timetable booklet and update all roadside timetables within Taunton as soon as a start date for the evening services has been agreed, and as soon as their own proposed changes take place, which he will discuss in more detail with John Perrett and colleagues at Somerset. Tony Reese advised that the D2 timetables as yet had not been changed. The Chair stated that John Perrett has been in discussions repeatedly with First West of England about the matter and will continue to do so. David Redgewell suggested that the Chair speak with the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, given that some of the routes are in their area and they are also behind in updating their timetables, such as on the service to the Royal United Hospital in Bath. He also suggested a meeting with the CEO of First Buses regarding First South West and First West of England in order to resolve some of these county-wide issues with First Group. The Chair said they would pick up that issue.