Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Community Transport Association (Bus 12)



  The Community Transport Association welcomes the decision of the Transport Sub-Committee to undertake an inquiry into the bus industry. The focus of our response is on the contribution of bus services to reducing social inclusion, although we do also have comments on the other areas.

  Social exclusion is and always has underpinned the entire ethos of community transport and it would be no exaggeration to say that over the past 15 years the movement has pioneered methods of developing transport services to overcome social exclusion.

1.   Subsidies in the United Kingdom bus industry, and the result of "bus challenge" initiatives in rural and urban communities.

  1.1  The community transport movement has always felt like a "poor cousin" when it comes to bus subsidies.

  1.2  For example, whereas timetabled bus services benefit mandatorily from concessionary fares income, this is only discretionary in the case of community transport and very few local authorities extend the scheme to community transport. In addition, until earlier this month, community transport schemes operating under a Section 19 permit (the most common form of regulation) were not entitled to fuel duty rebate.

  1.3  Things have started to change for the better. New regulations extending Fuel Duty Rebate (now called Bus Service Operators Grant) were published in April 2002 extending the concession to many community transport services. In addition, the establishment since 1997 of several new grant schemes (including Rural Bus Challenge) for rural operators has had an enormously beneficial effect on the development of community transport services in rural areas.

  1.4  The CTA welcomes the introduction of the Urban Bus Challenge scheme and hopes it may achieve similar results to its rural counterpart. However, the failure to establish a ring-fenced part of UBC especially for community transport leads us to be concerned whether money will flow to those community transport groups most in need of support. It is in areas where local authority support is weakest that most needs to be done yet if the local authority is responsible for submitting bids this is unlikely to change.

  1.5  The biggest weakness to both urban and rural bus challenge is the paucity of alternative funding sources once the time-limited grant has run out. Many projects have found themselves "re-inventing" the objectives of their project just to get additional funding even though all concerned have recognised the value of what their new services have provided.

2.   The relative merits of bus quality partnerships and bus quality contracts

  2.1  The de-regulation of bus services outside London has not been a success and efforts should be made to ensure that local authorities have much more control over what services are provided when and with what standards of vehicle and driver training.

  2.2  Although bus quality partnerships may have a role to play in some areas (particularly when the right of local authorities to play a leading role has always been accepted), the CTA feels that bus quality contracts should be a more easily available tool for local authorities—they should not be seen as merely a last-resort option.

3.   Importance of bus priority measures and their enforcement

  3.1  Most bus services, especially in urban areas, are slow and unreliable and this is mainly because of congestion. As long as this remains the case buses will not be the mode of choice for anyone whose journey is time-urgent (ie especially people travelling to work).

  3.2  Bus priority measures tend to be most effective when they are thorough and comprehensive and when they are properly enforced. It is vital that the trend to guarantee buses road space is continued and extended.

  3.3  Measures to enforce bus priority should be accompanied by vigorous efforts to explain the purposes of this strategy and the accompanying benefits to many local people.

4.   Regulation of the bus industry

  4.1  Comparing ridership levels on buses in London compared with those outside the capital is instructive.

  4.2  Buses should be seen as an essential public service. This does not preclude private ownership of the bus industry but certainly requires much more local authority control over routes, timetables and standards of service than the current regime allows.

5.   The contribution of bus services to reducing social exclusion

  5.1  Understandably, most bus routes have been developed with the needs of peak demand in mind. Also, many routes were developed years ago when patterns of employment, and therefore travel, were very different. As a result, many groups of people do not find buses helpful in their struggle to access work, services, education and leisure opportunities.

  5.2  Bus services can play a major role in providing transport for excluded groups and individuals but commercial bus companies (and some local authorities) need to be much more imaginative and much more in touch with local needs and required travel patterns if they are to fulfil their potential.

  5.3  Community transport has been developing transport solutions to the exclusion of many groups of people for many years. It pioneered both the provision of accessible transport for older and disabled people and the introduction of demand-responsive services and today is still developing innovative solutions to the obstacles faced by people trying to access work and training, people who are concerned about the safety of public transport, people living in remote rural and isolated urban communities.

  5.4  Just as addressing the needs of rush-hour commuters often needs large-scale solutions with integrated city or county-wide networks, so meeting the needs of people with different travel patterns and needs, often requires detailed local knowledge and smaller-scale, tailor-made services. There is not one big answer to the problem of transport and social exclusion. Rather there will be a diverse range of solutions, a complex matrix of often very local or specialised services linking in where possible with "mainstream" solutions.

  5.5  However, if local solutions to local problems are allowed to develop further, it is absolutely vital that the providers of these services (whether community transport, local authority, commercial or other) are able to co-ordinate over route and timetables with each other and with larger providers.

  5.6  The accompanying three appendices describe many of the services community transport currently provides to help reduce social exclusion and identifies ways in which government action could provide further support to the community transport movement.


  The Community Transport Association is the national representative body for all the different types of community transport project including dial a ride, community buses, car schemes, group transport, wheels to work and women's safe transport. It also represents the many voluntary sector organisations who own or operate their own minibus or other vehicle. It draws the bulk of its membership from such projects and also from local authority officers or departments who have an involvement or interest in community transport.

  The wide range of CTA's activities include:

    —  Free Advice and Information service on all aspects of community transport including legal issues, needs assessments, vehicle purchase and specification, grant applications, safety issues and project management.

    —  Training—a nationwide programme of training, again on a very wide range of subjects from the very technical to the more general eg capacity building, marketing, recruiting volunteers, applying for grants etc.

    —  Publications—our wide range of publications not only complements our advice, information and training work but also includes a magazine Community Transport which is published six times a year. We also have had a website for the last four years which is currently being further developed.

    —  Development Work—we currently have dedicated development workers supporting new and emerging projects in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Rural England and London and offer similar assistance to groups in other areas (chiefly urban areas, especially in England).

    —  Organising the country's largest Exhibition aimed directly at the community transport movement—this takes place at the end of each year alongside our annual conference and training event.

    —  Representation—the CTA works with Government (both Westminster and the devolved bodies of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London), local authorities and many professional bodies to ensure a legislative and political framework that is supportive of the sector.

    —  Good practice campaigning—the CTA has a long history of encouraging good practice in all areas of operation but especially in safety and accessibility.

Martin Jones

April 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 12 September 2002