To consider the following Transport related reports scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 9 February 2022:
• Bus Operator Enhanced Partnership Plan
The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise the reports and make recommendations to Cabinet as appropriate.
Cabinet member invited to attend for this item: Councillor Mike Greene, Portfolio Holder for Transport and Sustainability
The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
The Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and Transport presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each member of the Board and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these minutes in the Minute Book. The Portfolio Holder and officers addressed a number of points raised by the Board including:
· Franchising – The Portfolio Holder confirmed that this had been discussed as an alternative option at an earlier stage but had been disregarded by BCP and the vast majority of other Councils due to the huge resource and commitment required, not least in preparing for it.
· Governance arrangements – At this stage it was not yet clear whether meetings and minutes would be made public. If so, it was noted that some redaction may be required where issues of commercial sensitivity were disclosed.
· Bus speed – The Portfolio Holder was asked whether the targeted increase in bus speed would have the desired transformational impact and encourage new bus users. The Portfolio Holder explained that going from 12 to 13.2 miles per hour constituted a 10% increase in speed, which he felt was significant particularly at a time of increasing congestion. Studies showed that even a 1% increase in speed resulted in a 1% improvement in patronage. There were elements in the Plan which targeted both new users and a greater take up by existing users
· Tackling the school run in order to transform peak journey times – The Portfolio Holder reported that there were aims in the Plan to reduce fares for young people and increase the number of school children using the bus to deal with this key issue.
· Pricing and Fares – Board members commented on the current cost of bus travel, especially for families, and asked how much influence the Plan could have on the bus companies in reviewing fares and ticketing. The Portfolio Holder explained that although commercial confidentiality did have an impact on the extent of joint discussions with the Council, the partnership aimed for greater cooperation and was a legally binding agreement. He agreed there was a need for proper, simplified cross ticketing. There was also a need to review those high frequency routes with too much cross over of services This could free up drivers and vehicles to enable increased frequency on other routes.
· ‘Getting About’ Ticket – The Portfolio Holder agreed that this needed to be looked at. It was currently operating with a 20% premium rate, so the 0.05% take up was understandable.
· A Board member felt that the proposed schemes requiring funding as set out in Annex A were underwhelming - The Portfolio Holder cited one of these schemes, the review of on street parking, as an example which the bus companies had identified as the biggest barrier to reliability and speed. He explained that the Plan needed to be realistic and fully funded to succeed.
· Lack of direct routes – A Board member commented on how the lack of a direct bus route was a key barrier to bus use. There was no direct service between Bournemouth and Ashley Cross to Poole Quay and Poole Regeneration sites and the siting of Poole Bus Station remained an issue. The Portfolio Holder acknowledged that the lack of direct service to Poole Quay for residents and visitors needed to be addressed, particular in view of the Council’s ambitions for area. The partnership would provide opportunities to influence services and look at the possibility of through routes and/or loops via the Quay and Hamworthy.
· A Board member felt that there was lack of ambition in the Plan and that the objectives were ‘woolly’ – The Portfolio Holder explained that the Plan needed to be realistic in order to achieve funding and that the objectives would become more refined over time. He confirmed that cross border work was already taking place but for the purposes of the partnership a boundary was required. The overall ambition was for a fully integrated system, with a more frequent rail service, more north/south and circular bus services, alongside cycling and walking The partnership assumed that the transforming cities fund projects will be delivered.