#DevonPTR15 | Devon County Council Public Transport Review

It’s interesting reading the preamble accompanying Devon County Council’s recently announced Public Transport Review 2015.

The opening paragraph reads:
To help meet the £50 million budget reduction required by Government spending cuts next year, we now face making savings of £1.7m from our annual public transport budget.
which could be amended to read:
To help meet the £50 million budget CUT required by Government spending CUTS next year, we now face making CUTS of £1.7m from our annual public transport budget.”

The document goes on to suggest that there are 3 options:
– making savings by changing services
– change the way in which services are provided
– increase charges for services rather than entirely taking them away

Yet when they say they need your help, they say:
We would like to find out what you think about our proposals to reduce services“.

Indeed, more than that they emphasise this by stating:
It will be the first time that we have proposed making service reductions for four years.”

To me, a better option would be to look at the way in which services are provided.

The current dialogue appears to be a negative one, as what seems to be proposed by  DCC is a ‘managed decline’ in bus services in Exeter and beyond.

An open and positive dialogue with the bus operators could lead to a better grasp of what a strategic bus network might look like, including examining new routes and altering some existing routes.

Since DCC hasn’t provided any options, I’m going to look at some strategic changes to routes and/or services than might enable more of our  vulnerable communities to be provided with some buses in the evening and on Sundays.

#exDUMPT buses | Some thoughts on the early comments made about DCC’s public transport review

I’ve been reading through the comments section on the Public Transport Review on supported bus services in Devon.

For those without access to a car, or chose not to own one, or who cannot drive, or cannot afford a car, a bus service is key to a decent quality of life: with fewer buses, or none at all, journeys may not be made at all. And this is borne out in the comments being made. I fear for social isolation – and not only in rural areas, it can and will happen in urban and suburban settings.

The report from the IPPR thinktank, Greasing the Wheels: Supporting and Improving Britain’s Rail and Bus Services, highlights that the poorest make more than three times as many trips a year by bus as the richest.

But while car ownership is nearly universal among wealthier people, only 30% of households in the poorest income decile own a vehicle. Poorer groups therefore rely on bus services or have to take taxis.

The report shows that the poorest fifth of households take more taxi journeys per year than any other income group – largely due to the unavailability, unreliability and high fares of their local buses.

One reponse to DCC’s  consultationmade reference to
The poor bus services provided by Exeter City Council & Devon County Council

It is worth noting that NO bus servicesin Exeter are provided by either ECC and DCC.

What top-tier local authorities (in this case Devon County Council) CAN do is subsidise bus routes that they deem are socially necessary (meaning that means it meets a public transport need) but not commercially viable.

Apart for the D-U-M-P-T services, each and every route in Exeter is operated by Stagecoach SW on a commercial basis.

D-U-M-P-T routes (whether whole service, part routes, or evening/Sunday services) under threat of withdrawal are deemed by Stagecoach to be unprofitable To ensure they do run, DCC support these services by paying Stagecoach a subsidy.

The trouble stems nearly 30 years ago, local bus services in Britain were deregulated by the Conservatives under the Transport Act 1985 and implemented from 26 October 1986.

Now nearly 30 years on, it is clear that under this legislation, the system of commercial routes and supported services is clearly failing the non-core services and the communities that depend on them. Surely the aim is for the profitable routes to cross-subsidise the uncommercial services?

Many respondents have made reference to the National Bus Pass which entitles the pass holder to free off-peak travel on local buses anywhere in England.

There have been different suggestions:
– Charge for the actual pass;
– Charge a nominal amount (50p? £1?) for each jounrney; or
– Limit the range to journeys within Devon.

To each and every one of thess the answer is the same (HT Richard Hill of DCC who patiently explains):
– Devon County Council administers the National Bus Pass according to legislation contained in the Concessionary Travel Act 2007.
– As such it is not possible – by law – for Devon County Council to request payment for the first issue of a National Bus Pass or to request that the passenger pay a contribution to the bus fare.
– It would require an act of Parliament to alter the legislation governing the National Bus Pass scheme.”