DRAFT ESSEX BUS AND PASSENGER TRANSPORT STRATEGY 2015

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1 Essex County Council Date 18 March 2015 Please ask for Matthew Winslow Department Strategic Planning Tel. No Ref BF1-MJW/ SERVED BY ONLY Dear Sir or Madam, DRAFT ESSEX BUS AND PASSENGER TRANSPORT STRATEGY 2015 I am writing on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning and the Basildon Bus Forum, the latter which convened a special meeting on 24 March 2015 to discuss and formulate the Council s response to the Essex Draft Bus and Passenger Transport Strategy The Basildon Bus Forum brings together local councillors and bus operators within the Basildon Borough and thanks Essex County Council for the opportunity of being able to contribute to the development of the strategy. Its response to the relevant questions is set out below: Question 9: What difference do buses make to you and your community? The Council considers buses to be an important facility for residents, students, businesses, visitors and tourists in/to the Borough, providing a means for people who do not have access to private vehicles or other forms of public transport to travel within the Borough or further afield. For the most vulnerable of our communities they are considered to be a lifeline; a means of accessing health, leisure, education or shopping facilities that would otherwise make people isolated and more vulnerable. Question 10: How can we attract more passengers to bus transport and broaden bus use? The Council considers that more passengers could be attracted to using bus transport, if buses serving the Borough were more reliable, travelled to key employment destinations currently not served and linked up better with railway stations, interchanges or town centre destinations. There should also be better timetable information available at bus stops and route information/maps so people know where their local services provide them access to. In addition, the Council believes better consideration should be given to the termini of evening/ late night bus services, so they do not end their routes in the middle of estates and link up with railway stations, interchanges or town centre locations. The Council believes people are deterred form using buses as they think they are more expensive or less convenient to other alternatives and instead Essex County Council should Basildon Borough Council The Basildon Centre St. Martin s Square Basildon, Essex SS14 1DL Tel: Fax

2 use its new strategy to tackle these issues as they are often misconceptions. One area which is an issues is that Essex and the Basildon Borough would be better served if universal tickets were introduced which could be used across the bus companies, and if possible, with the railway franchise providers as well, to enable better ticket integration across transport providers. The Council feel that what is also missing is a consistent and more sophisticated marketing and publicity campaign that provides information about what bus services are available, area by area, what the routes and key destinations are and the cost of fares. Question 11: Please rank these issues in order of priority to you, where 1 is the most important and 8 is the least important: a) Frequency b) Reliability c) Friendliness of the drivers d) The cleanliness and comfort of the vehicle e) The availability of good, accurate travel information f) Cost g) Accessibility (ease of getting on and off and travelling on the bus) h) The route The Council does not believe these issues should be ranked. They all have an equal priority. Question 12: Are there any other issues that are important? The Council feel that bus services should be better integrated with railway services specifically, including the consideration of an Oyster Card payment system for bus services. Essex Inner and Outer Ranger ticketing system should be simplified as an additional priority to ensure that the passengers experience at making a bus journey is harmonious between commercial and subsidised services and they are not refused a seat, if the valid ticket they have was bought on a commercial service, could otherwise cover the journey. The County Council should review the principle of how it will facilitate school children journeying to school given the challenges placed on the highway network at peak times as a result of parents driving their children to school, which rarely have adequate parking or waiting facilities and result in congestion in local areas. Question 13: If you could make ONE change to current bus services, what would it be? The Council feels that there is an apparent disconnect between concessionary fares for children and young people and Essex County Council s social and equality responsibilities. 21.5% of children living in Basildon Borough live in poverty, with 60% of these living in situations where the median family income is just under 13,200 per annum. Essex County Council should review its approach to how children and young peoples half fares are based to encourage greater bus travel amongst children and young people, particularly those aged under 17 who cannot drive and therefore are at greater risk of being isolated from their friends, family, place of study, work, leisure or entertainment. This may also help encourage more people to enter adulthood realising the truer cost and accessibility bus services in Essex provide and adopt them as their preferred method of travel, or at least as a alternative. The 2

3 County Council could also consider whether it could support families living in poverty further by subsidising bus travel for them, or at least their children, which would also help deliver the social responsibilities. In addition, more could be done to promote and adopt amongst bus operators the Keep Safe project, which is a community safety scheme that supports people with learning disabilities to keep them safe when out and about; thus opening up better means for them to be able to travel independently. Question 14: If you could have ONE new bus route in Essex which doesn t currently exist, where would it be? There should be a bus route operating at peak times which enables better access to the A127 Enterprise Corridor to better serve the business corridor with options other than the private motor vehicle. Question 15: Proposal 1 Working in Partnership - Do you believe we have left anybody out? Please specify who else should be included in our partnership? In addition, the Council feels that representatives from Local Bus Forums, the NHS/Clinical Commissioning Groups/other healthcare providers, major education providers, Essex Police, relevant business associations/ enterprise groups, rail franchise companies, Network Rail and Hackney/ Private Hire companies should be included in the partnership. Question 16: Proposal 2 Customer Quality Commitment Please tell us which of these are the top three issues for you? 1. Frequency and reliability 2. Live, real time information on bus location and route planning 3. High vehicle standards, including the sitting environment, cleanliness, accessibility and Wi-Fi Question 17: Proposal 3 Better, well used services What should be our priority areas for developing more services? 1. Your local community 2. Services to rail stations 3. Services to business parks Question 18: Proposal 4 Support for Valuable, but not commercial, services What else can we change to get better value from the services which Essex County Council runs? The Council believes that there should be a structural overhaul of how the publically funded services are delivered to communities in Essex. This issue has such a wide ranging scope it could become a Strategy in its own right. Timetables should be reviewed regularly so they remain fit for purpose and updated to meet current demands. In addition, the tender processes need overhauling to ensure greater flexibility can be built into contracts that more accurately reflect demand from communities, particularly services which run at night and on Sundays, and where there is currently a mismatch between bus 3

4 patronage and routes. For some of these the County Council could consider transferring some services to a publically subsidised call and demand mini-bus/hopper model instead, where it proves to be more responsive to travel needs, where there is lower patronage on existing routes and where it proves more cost effective. Question 19: Proposal 5 Good customer information What information would make using the bus more convenient for you? 1. Planning journeys, including maps 2. Tracking your bus on a map on your smartphone, laptop or tablet 3. Personalised alerts so you know where your bus is 4. Easily accessible timetables 5. Better information at the bus stop 6. Other (as specified below) Other In addition to the above, real-time information screens should be installed in key areas of potential passenger congregation such as cinema foyers, hospital/health centre waiting areas, food courts, shopping centres and railway stations. Question 20: Proposal 5 Good customer information How would you like that information? 1. Online so you can access it on a smartphone, laptop or tablet 2. Advice at bus stations 3. Paper timetables and information on routes, including at bus stops 4. Telephone 5. Other (as specified below) The Council believes that any customer information about bus services should be available for people who have access to modern technology, but also those who do not, so as not to isolate anyone. Therefore 1, 2, 3 and 4 and 5 are all relevant. Other A Smartphone App should be developed to enable those that have access to smartphone technology to access real-time information on the go, and at their convenience. Question 22: Proposal 6 Tailored Solutions Do you have any new or innovative ideas about how to provide bus services in Essex? As mentioned already, the Council believes that there should be better integration of rail services, bus services and taxi/private hire services in Essex, which should also help it respond more rapidly to sudden needs such as rail issues. Essex County Council could also consider switching the form of some of its bus travel provision to a fleet of smaller buses, or to a subsidised call and demand mini-bus/taxi service instead of running near empty buses on some routes to be more effective with the bus subsidy. Question 23: Proposal 7 Ticketing What would help make buying a ticket simpler? 1. A zone or banding system so you know how much you ll pay 2. Being able to pay with a smart card or phone as well as money 4

5 3. Being able to buy a ticket online 4. Group or family discounts 5. Other All of the above would help make buying a ticket simpler. However introducing a zone or banding system may inadvertently mean some people pay more for their journeys than they do at the moment, as prices become harmonised to a specific band. Other the Council feels that greater promotion is needed about the Inner and Outer Ranger tickets an existing zonal system, which are already available on First Buses, but should also be available across the other bus operator options. Multi-operator ticket machines could also be introduced at key destinations such as town halls and shopping centres so people have access to ticket purchasing at key places. In addition, multi-journey ticket booklets for people making regular journeys would help make the pricing and ticket issuing system simpler. Question 24: Proposal 8 Focussed Local Planning What would be the most important things to consider in your area? Basildon Council would like to work with its Local Councils to take on a more proactive role in local bus and passenger transport planning with ECC and therefore should be given devolved powers to do so more effectively. Question 25: Conclusion Is there anything else you would like to see covered in our strategy? The Council would like to see the following additional matters covered by the Bus and Passenger Transport Strategy: a) There should be earlier and more proactive involvement from the bus operators and Essex County Council in the planning and design of major new housing and employment developments to enable new routes, or re-routed routes, to be better integrated and served and avoid the installation of cul-de-sac routes which are not cost effective to operate. ECC should facilitate those routes becoming commercially operational before the developments are fully occupied to prevent residents or visitors getting into the habit of using other modes of transport. These new services could be publically subsidised until they become financially viable, or greater partnership could be sought from developers through the s.106 Planning Obligations process to make more meaningful contributions to public transport improvements. b) A review of bus routes should take place at a local level with the input of local authorities to ensure if opportunities exist to expand or change the routes due to poor patronage or new destinations needing to be served to enable more integrated planning of infrastructure, housing, or major centres of employment through the planning process. This review could also include an analysis of demographic information, employee densities, as well as health and deprivation indicators, often held by local authorities to help plan for the most beneficial routes to local communities, prior to considering what routes/ services should remain or be introduced. This would allow local bus routes to be tailored to better serve areas with the greatest demand or potential, as well as inform them of the types of services needed (e.g. more in rush hour, at night, etc.) Partnerships could also be formed with local businesses to design bespoke services that help key employment locations be 5

6 served at specific times, or provide incentive schemes to employees to encourage greater modal shift. c) The Council believes bus services throughout Essex should be reviewed to determine what supporting changes might need to be made to the bus network to enable integration with the new Crossrail rail service from Brentwood and Shenfield in d) Currently the way the buses are designed do not cater for all combinations of passengers very well, and there are particular issues with pushchairs and wheelchair users in the Basildon Borough where they seek to use the same services. To enable greater modal shift to take place, consideration could be given to improved bus designs which accommodate better space configurations to accommodate the demands of different passengers, particular those routes where combinations of different passenger needs including luggage, cycle, wheelchair and pushchair space, in addition to seating. e) The Council believes more frequent and direct services should be available between the north-south routes of Pitsea - Wickford - Chelmsford where direct rail services are otherwise not available and that could mirror the 100 service between Basildon- Billericay-Chelmsford. f) There should be more active network management for frequent bus services to avoid buses bunching together when there have been traffic issues, which can inadvertently then mean buses travel empty which is frustrating and inefficient. Could a formal or informal protocol not be put in place between drivers to stop this happening as frequently in the future? g) There should be an Essex Smartphone Bus App developed for all bus operators providing timetabling and ticket purchasing options. h) Essex County Council should have contingency plans in place for operator failure in order to safeguard services. Once again, on behalf of the Council and Basildon Bus Forum, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to take part in the consultation. If you have any follow-up questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Yours faithfully, Matthew Winslow BSc. (Hons.) MSc. MRTPI Service Manager Strategic Planning and Housing Policy 6

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