Agenda item

Scrutiny of Transport and Sustainability Related Cabinet Reports

To consider the following Transport and Sustainability related reports scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 1 September 2021:


   Bus Operator Enhanced Partnership (National Bus Strategy)


The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise and comment on the report and if required make recommendations or observations as appropriate.


The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.



The Sustainable Transport Policy Manager presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'A' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.


Officers responded to comments and requests for clarification, details included:


  • Under this proposal, buses would continue to be operated as commercial enterprises, with the odd exception where some routes were subsidised by the Council.
  • The conurbation was lucky enough to be served by two good bus operators who had both invested in the quality of their vehicles, many of which provided services such as wi-fi, phone charging points and contactless payments.
  • Go South Coast was considering the introduction of arrangements that would be similar to that of TfL’s Oyster system.
  • Routes were introduced by operators and were regularly reviewed. It should be noted that the council maintained a dialogue with operators to ensure that areas were being served and that the council did have the option to subsidise less profitable routes where appropriate and budget allowed for this to happen – it would be possible to bid for additional funding from the government going forwards.
  • Baseline mapping was being undertaken at present to establish gaps in the bus network and inform future bidding opportunities. The data from this exercise would be used to assess the need in the area.
  • Bearing in mind the tight timescale that had been set by the Government, the option of franchising was not feasible to pursue at this stage, hence the proposal to pursue the option of an Enhanced Partnership (EP).
  • The move to franchising of services would present considerable risk financially and in terms of passenger expectations, and reputational risk to the council. Additionally, the Council did not currently have the capacity to introduce franchising at this time.
  • In selecting the proposed approach, officers had been pragmatic and franchising does still remain an option for the future.
  • There were some issues between the main operators in the area and taking the EP option was expected to remedy this.
  • The EP would include all bus operators in the area, not just the main two, with the exception of the open-top tour buses.
  • Officers had utilised information that had been gathered from both users and non-users of public transport to establish the priorities of both.
  • The importance of integrating transportation systems was recognised and officers were focussed on the ‘first and last mile’ of commuters’ journeys, particularly in regard to cycle access, and were working with Beryl Bikes to explore options.
  • There was no BSIP document to share at present as it was still being drafted and would be considered as a ‘high-level’ plan. Following the publication of this, detailed solutions would follow with proposals due to be considered by Cabinet in February 2022.
  • There would be an opportunity for the Council to bid for funding for a young person’s travel scheme.
  • It was recognised that there were gaps within the existing network, particularly within the Christchurch area and it was hoped that the introduction of the EP with the BSIP would help to address this in due course.
  • The ultimate aim of this proposal was to ensure that bus services appeared more attractive and to encourage better usage amongst  both users and non-users.
  • Two tranches of funding were due to be announced by the Government and the Council were awaiting more detail to be made available. One tranche would be based on a formula basis based on the BSIP and the other tranche of funding would be for higher valued proposals.
  • It was expected that the Government would also provided funding to kick start some of these changes to allow for a more commercially viable network that would cover its own costs.


It was moved and seconded that recommendation (b) to Cabinet be amended to read as follows:


Cabinet delegates authority to the Service Director for Transport and Engineering in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Transport and Sustainability to negotiate, seek stakeholder views and then publish a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to include a balanced review of the benefits of moving to a Franchising model within the next 5 years, with especial regard to the Dorset Metro concept, multimodal integration, and the development of Mobility as a service (MAAS) on behalf of the Council by the end of October 2021 in line with the requirements of the National Bus Strategy for England.


Plus, the addition of a third recommendation, to read as follows:


(c)      “that the evolving Bus Service Improvement Plan, including longer term ambitions, comes back to Cabinet for approval, especially with a view to bidding via the Western Gateway for funding of wider public transport ambitions.”



For – 11                  Against – 2             Abstained – 2




Supporting documents: