Agenda item

Update on Bus Service Improvement Plan

To consider the attached update on the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP).

 

 

Minutes:

4.1       Tom Main, Integrated Transport Manager, gave an update on the Bus Service             Improvement Plan (BSIP). This was supported by Colin Chick, Executive Director            of Economy, Environment, and Infrastructure. The following points were          highlighted:

 

  • The National Bus Strategy was issued by the Government in 2021 to assist the bus network in its post-Covid 19 recovery. Since the first failed BSIP funding bid in 2021, Officers had been working on implementing the Department for Transport’s (DfT) feedback in the hope that they would be successful in the second round of funding. The 3 key areas of improvement identified were bus priority, infrastructure, and ticketing.
  • GCC did gain the DfT’s Transport Capacity grant which had been used to employ a policy expert and an engineer. The Officer explained that there had also been two studies undertaken by separate consultancy groups. The first conducted by Phil Jones Associates (PJA) was to identify corridors of high frequency bus services and use this to target where bus prioritisation such as bus lanes, traffic light priority etc could be implemented.
  • The second study was by Stantec into Interchange Bus Hubs; it identified every bus stop within the county to categorise them and to highlight any changes that could be implemented. There was no timeline for these studies to be completed but both were nearing conclusion.
  • The Officer confirmed that making improvements to ticketing had been the hardest issue to tackle because it was the bus operators who had control over pricing.
  • Following government guidance, the team created the Enhanced Operator Partnership Agreement between GCC and the bus operators within Gloucestershire. The draft agreement was currently out to an informal consultation with transport operators, it was explained that this would be followed by a formal stakeholder consultation in August.
  • It was hoped that the final Enhanced Partnership Agreement would be submitted to the DfT for approval by the 30th September 2023 deadline. Should this be the case, the first meeting of the board could take place in October, in order that the reviewed BSIP could be brought to Cabinet on the 22nd November 2023, and then submitted to the DfT in December.

 

4.2       In response to a question, officers confirmed that the BSIP would prioritise             creating express services for rural communities to connect them to the main urban centres, including the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) System.

 

4.3       Officers confirmed that 70% of private car journeys in Gloucestershire were over 20km, most of which finished in rural areas. Therefore, it was important that GCC found viable and efficient services to support public transport for those who live in Gloucestershire’s rural communities. Members were reminded of The Robin Bus Service as an example of a very successful rural transport scheme. The Robin Service was a pre-bookable minibus service that operates in both the Forest of Dean and the North Cotswold with a service from Monday to Saturday, 7am-7pm. He emphasised that this scheme had removed bus wastage and had made the service much more economical. It had been so successful that GCC were considering extending the service.

 

4.4       It was emphasised that the BSIP was focused on removing barriers in order to promote and improve bus use by the whole county. To maximise efficiency and improve pricing, it was emphasised that GCC’s plan was also aimed to reduce bus times between the urban hubs such as Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Cirencester, Tewkesbury and Cinderford etc.

 

4.5       Officers emphasised they were constantly analysing the different projects with the BSIP and Local Transport Plan (LTP) to understand the effectiveness of both, and to identify any areas that needed improvement.

 

4.6       In response to a member’s question about whether technology, such as autonomous buses, would be investigated for suitability, the officers confirmed that because this was a long-term bus strategy, the team did and would continue to keep an eye on transportation technological developments and would implement them if they became a genuine option.

 

4.7       A member expressed concern that the Interchange Bus Hub report could miss certain long-distance interchanges where there was a few minutes’ walk between bus stops. The Officer reassured members that this would be looked at in great detail as to not miss such opportunities, and members were welcome to highlight any specific concerns with the team directly. 

 

 

Supporting documents: