Memorandum by the Community Transport
Association (Bus 12)
THE BUS INDUSTRY
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
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
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 authoritiesthey should not be
seen as merely a last-resort option.
3. Importance of bus priority measures and
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
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
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
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.
Traininga 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.
Publicationsour 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 Workwe 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 movementthis
takes place at the end of each year alongside our annual conference
and training event.
Representationthe 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 campaigningthe
CTA has a long history of encouraging good practice in all areas
of operation but especially in safety and accessibility.