Report of the Chief Executive
(Note: The appendices for this report are to follow)
Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Cabinet member for Transport, Waste, Street Scene and Flooding presented the report which provided detail about a National Bus Strategy for England, and associated funding, aimed at improving and increasing bus usage.
Cllr Dr McClelland introduced the report and explained that the Strategy for England is a central government policy aimed at improving and increasing bus usage. It required Local Transport Authorities to work in legal partnership with local bus operators to achieve this growth. The report detailed the benefits in growing passenger numbers.
Cllr Jerry Kunkler, Chair of the Environment Select Committee welcomed the report and confirmed that the Select Committee had considered the detail of the report and supported the report’s recommendations at its meeting on 8 October 2021.
Cllr Ian Thorn raised question in relation to the following matters:
· The variation in fares across the county. Cllr Dr McClelland confirmed that fares would be considered further and suggested that they would be levelled down rather than up.
· Welcomed the basis of the government grant to encourage the increased use of public transport in rural areas. Cllr Thorn asked for detail of the plans beyond the funding. Cllr Dr McClelland explained that the ambition was for the additional services to become commercially viable during this time.
· The size of public service vehicles used on new routes to smaller developments. Cllr Dr McClelland confirmed that flexibility would be employed for operation of the new routes.
· Cllr Dr McClelland confirmed that discussions about the Strategy had taken place with bus companies.
Cllr Gordon King commented on the potential for excessive journey times and suggested this could be an area of further consideration.
Cllr Jon Hubbard was concerned that the report did not comment on access to education, and he encouraged work with multiple providers for discretionary rates for those in education/training post 16. Cllr Dr McClelland supported these comments and indicated that there was a smaller number of under 25’s currently driving than in previous years.
Cllr Gavin Grant welcomed the positive step forward and supported the comments made during the meeting. He reminded Cabinet that students in the north of the County attended colleges in Cirencester and this would need to be taken into account when considering joined up ticketing. He also raised the issue of the connections between this Strategy and the use of long stay car parks. Cllr Dr McClelland confirmed that he would discuss the comments further with officers.
Cllr Clare Cape spoke about the importance of connectivity with rail stations, and access to the rail station in Chippenham. Cllr Dr McClelland confirmed that investigations were ongoing in relation to Station Hill, Chippenham.
Cllr Tamara Reay asked when the proposed Laywood bus proposal would be introduced considering her responsibility as Air Quality Lead for Devizes. Cllr Dr McClelland confirmed that it would most likely be April 2022 and funded through Section 106 funding rather than funding from central government.
Cllr Tony Jackson welcomed the reinstatement of the half-hourly morning timetable on the Warminster Town Service route 50.
Cllr Dr McClelland explained that Appendix 4 – a table setting out the indicative costs of some of the schemes in priority order - was not currently available and therefore should not be considered when the Cabinet makes its decision.
1) To agree the Subsidised Bus Service Fund being committed as defined in the table in paragraph 22
2) Notes the progress on the Rural Mobility Fund (RMF) project and that a further progress report will be submitted in the future.
3) Agrees that Wiltshire’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) (Appendix 1), which will form the backbone of our future Bus strategy – Connected Wiltshire, is submitted to the DfT by 31 October 2021.
Reasons for Decision:
To ensure that:
1) Access to employment, particularly for lower paid workers is supported in order to grow the economy at what is a critical economic point.
2) Local residents and visitors to the county are suitably connected in order to facilitate essential trips, support the vulnerable and have access to employment.
3) The vision set out by government to grow bus usage nationally can be enacted in Wiltshire.
4) Public transport is supported appropriately, in order to meet Wiltshire Council’s carbon neutrality target and contributes towards increased modal shift.