Massive response to bus cuts consultation
WC has provided a timetable for its response to the bus consultation, following the decision of the Conservative administration to threaten to axe some or all rural buses in the county. Details below but first consider this:
According to The Campaign for Better Transport:
64 per cent of jobseekers either have no access to a vehicle or cannot drive
Young people are amongst the biggest users of bus services , whilst 40 per cent of people over 60 use the bus at least once a week
Passenger cars produce nearly 60 per cent of all CO2 emissions from road transport in the UK, compared with just 5 per cent from buses
If drivers switched just one in twenty five of their car journeys to bus or coach, it would mean one billion fewer car journeys per year
Every £1 of public investment in buses provides between £3 and £5 of wider benefits
Bus commuters generate £64 billion in economic output every year.
The council developed six cut options for supported bus services that were included in a 'Public Consultation Paper'. Questions on the savings options (and other relevant questions) were also included in an associated questionnaire.
It was highlighted that the consultation was on Wiltshire Council supported bus services and not commercial bus services. It was also highlighted that this was not a detailed consultation on particular routes, timetables or destinations, and as there would be many combinations of possible supported bus service cuts, the council had not yet determined what these cuts might be (information on bus services 'at risk' was provided however).
The public consultation exercise was undertaken from 11 January 2016 to 4 April 2016.
Emerging Consultation Outcomes
Over 11,000 questionnaires were returned, making it the second largest response to any Wiltshire Council consultation. Due to this significant number, the council has not been able to provide the final results at this stage.
Those people who responded to the questionnaire can be categorised as follows:
42% male 57% female
58% of respondents over 65 years old
28% of respondents say they have mobility problems
62% of respondents have access to a car but 28% do not
64% have a concessionary bus pass
The results very much followed the same line as the outcomes from the pre-consultation phase, with the main priority being on rural and strategic network services, so that people / communities do not become isolated. There was less of a priority placed upon on evening and Sunday services.
Option 24/7 is a community interest group, details of the group can be found at the following link: http://option247.uk/index.html
Their proposal is to franchise bus services in Wiltshire, by using revenue generated from the commercial, profitable bus services (not subsidised or managed by Wiltshire Council), to subsidise the bus services which Wiltshire Council funds. Powers to achieve this already exist in current legislation, but to date no other local authority in the country has done so.
New legislation in the form of the buses bill will likely receive royal ascent in the spring / summer of 2017, which will make it clearer what franchising and enhanced partnership working with bus suppliers and other key stakeholders might look like.
Wiltshire Council claims (wrongly) that "this does not necessarily tie in with the timescales for this review." However, they concede that the Option 24/7 should not be discounted and they say they'll continue to work with representatives of the group to develop the concept.
A paper outlining the results of the consultation will go to the Environment Select Committee on the 7th June 2016 and Cabinet on the 14th June 2016. Following this, it is planned to bring a paper to Cabinet in September 2016 outlining recommendations for the future of public transport in Wiltshire. It may be that further pubic consultation would be required, particularly if more significant bus service cuts are to be imposed by the Conservative administration.