Memorandum by Surrey County Council (Bus
1. Surrey County Council welcomes this opportunity
to submit evidence to the Sub-Committee on the new inquiry into
the bus industry.
2. The County Council has a five year Passenger
Transport Strategy which was published in July 2000 and is included
in the Local Transport Plan together with the County Council's
policy document on passenger transport represents County Council
policy on passenger transport issues.
3. In the region of 60 per cent of services
operated in Surrey are run on a commercial basis and are outside
the control of the County Council. This means that it is not possible
to plan and operate the bus network on a comprehensive basis to
meet the changing demands and needs of travellers in Surrey and
to integrate effectively with other modes. A majority of the effort
is placed on reacting to commercial changes and withdrawals.
4. Over the past two years there has been
an unprecedented number of withdrawals of commercial bus services
in the County. For example, during the period between October
2000 and September 2001 some 2,630 commercial journeys were withdrawn
and the County Council has replaced all but 465 of these journeys.
5. This memorandum provides information
on the problems and issues facing the County Council in retaining
socially necessary bus services and at the same time meeting the
requirements of the Government's Ten Year Plan.
6. During the past five years there have
been substantial withdrawals of commercial services but over the
past 18 months this has risen to the highest ever as a result
of the following:
19 March 2001Tillingbourne
Buses into receivership60+ vehicles
22 March 2001Surrey Buses
into receivership10 vehicles
21 April 2001Arriva withdrew
from East Surrey24 vehicles
27 February 2002White Rose
Buses into receivership20 vehicles
7. The constant changes to bus services
caused by a destabilised bus industry is causing a marked loss
of confidence in the bus network in Surrey.
8. In situations where the County Council
or London Buses (Transport for London) have replaced commercial
services in Surrey by contracted bus routes there has been a significant
improvement in reliability and passengers have been seen steadily
returning to use these services.
9. However, the County Council is not able
to plan a major proportion of the commercial network which is
being reduced on a rapidly increasing and uncontrolled basis.
This makes future strategic planning difficult and any enhancements
are only possible in areas where the County Council is controls
the network. There is evidence that where Quality Bus Partnerships
have been signed, commercial services in adjoining areas have
been reduced to meet the operators new commitment to provide better
services on partnership routes.
10. The County Council's Local Transport
Plan targets are to increase the proportion of Surrey residents
with good (20 minutes door to door) access to town centres by
public transport from 30 per cent in 1999 to 40 per cent by 2006
and to increase the proportion of Surrey residents' journeys made
by public transport from 9 per cent in 1999 to 12 per cent by
2006 and 18 per cent by 2016.
11. County Council funding for local bus
services since 2000-2001 is as follows:
12. Thus since the original 2000-2001 budget the County
Council will have increased revenue support for local bus services
by 104 per cent.
13. Even so there is likely to be a significant shortfall
in funding and major bus service reductions are being planned
for April 2003 as there is no indication that the Government will
recognise the problem and increase our SSA for 2003-2004. At the
same time SSA should specifically identify public transport funding
and not just Highways funding.
14. Apart from increased revenue support for bus services
the County Council is making substantial efforts through the LTP
and its own funding to encourage the use of public transport.
This ranges from Quality Bus Partnership Schemes and Real Time
Information at bus stops to Park and Ride and Bus Priority Schemes.
15. The Surrey bus industry is very fragile and there
is very serious concern that any cuts in services that may have
to be made in the next year as a result of the above shortfall.
However, this in turn may lead to further companies going into
liquidation and will affect our capability to deliver our Local
Transport Plan targets.
16. Quality Partnerships are welcomed and have given
the spur to local authorities to provide improved facilities for
17. Quality Contracts are essential if the Ten Year Plan
is to be achieved. The current destabilised and fragmented bus
network will ultimately lead to the demise of many bus services
in Surrey. The lack of recognition of Government in the SSA settlement
on the future of revenue funding for bus services inhibits the
County Council from applying for a Quality Bus Contract to be
applied across the County.
18. Surrey has only a few bus lanes but has concentrated
its efforts on Selective Vehicle Detection to give buses priority
at signalised junctions.
19. The County Council has a number of new bus lanes
due to be introduced over the next year or so but has received
clear indications in writing from the Police that they will not
be able to enforce them. Approaches are currently being made to
the Chief Constable on this matter.
20. The availability of the grant is welcomed and has
been successful in providing new services in the more isolated
parts of Surrey and has made a useful contribution to supporting
the base network of rural routes in Surrey. The ability to use
20 per cent of the grant on existing routes has been of significant
assistance over the past year and there is no doubt that the network
would be further reduced had this facility not been available.
If this proportion of the grant could not be used for existing
routes then the County Council would have to have provided even
more revenue support as outlined in paragraph 11 above.
21. Rural Bus Services Grant is further discussed under
"social exclusion" below.
22. However, it is confusing to the public that less
well used rural journeys are being retained with grant support
when other more substantial journeys are being withdrawn.
23. Bus services are important in tackling Social Exclusion.
They are necessary in maintaining and improving mobility for those
citizens who, for reasons of disability, gender, race, locality
or income, find themselves excluded from social activities other,
more mobile people with private transport may take for granted.
24. Over the last five years Surrey County Council has
received over £3.5 million in Rural Bus Subsidy Grant-aid
to develop 25 new transport services in the rural areas of the
county and this has led to over 488,000 additional bus journeys
by Surrey residents who are reliant on public or community transport
services. The County Council has also been successful in receiving
£805,000 in Rural Bus Challenge Funding to develop additional
community transport services that meet the travel needs of those
residents unable to use conventional public transport because
of some form of mobility impairment.
25. In Surrey there are high levels of withdrawals of
commercial services as described above. Many bus services are
no longer viable as a result of driver shortages, rising staff
costs, increasing fuel and insurance costs. Increasing regulation
such as new Disability Discrimination Act requirements also add
26. Fewer quality operators are submitting tenders for
local bus contracts. There are few new operators entering the
market with smaller operators struggling to survive and an increasing
number going out of business. This is shown by the cost of bus
contracts in Surrey rising by around 25-30 per cent per annum.
27. Increasing traffic congestion is also causing bus
operating costs to increase. Slower journey times require additional
vehicles and driver time. Maintenance costs also rise.
28. There are pressures as a result of bordering London
Higher remuneration and security for operators
who work for London Buses.
Drivers attracted by higher wages paid by operators
running services in London.
Higher contract specification and increasing contract
costs for cross-boundary services.
29. The Traffic Commissioner has introduced a much tighter
performance monitoring regime, which has caused operators to increase
the vehicle requirement in the peak hour in order to keep to the
published timetable. Commercial services are becoming less financially
viable and vulnerable to withdrawal. A more pragmatic understanding
regarding the implementation of the new standards of monitoring
the performance of bus services is required.
30. There are increasing financial pressures on the County
Council where schools can no longer afford to contract its own
services for non-entitled pupils. These have to be replaced by
contracted local bus services. The alternative is to leave large
numbers of pupils stranded or alternatively parents taking them
in by car.
31. The National Traveline was introduced under Transport
Act 2000 and calls are being charged at a rate of 80-90 pence
per call. These costs are substantial for some small operators
who cannot afford to pay and are looking to the County Council
to meet these costs. Tillingbourne Buses had approached the County
Council on this matter before going into receivership.
32. Ticketing schemes are difficult to introduce which
allow inter-operator availability as the Office of Fair Trading
guidelines are strict even with the new block exemptions restrictive
clauses still remain.
33. LTP capital funding does not help the County Council
with support for bus service provision. Revenue funding is also
required for the continued maintenance of capital projects. Examples
of neglect can be seen in other parts of the country where weeds
are growing through tarmac and roadside facilities have fallen
34. There is a lack of suitable premises for garaging
and maintaining buses. Costs have soared in recent years. It has
to be recognised that some of the major operators have sold property
for financial gain and because of the reducing network.
35. Operators complain at the lack of a consistent finance
policy as Government funding which to them fluctuates between
famine and feast and the same applies to the funding for local
authorities where additional responsibilities and functions are
given to the County Council without the requisite funding.
36. The threat to buses across Surrey is not restricted
to rural areas but also in major urban areas. Operation is particularly
costly where the demands are diverse such as in the Blackwater
Valley and the Byfleet/Weybridge/Staines/ Woking area.
37. The problem of driver shortage has driven up bus
operating costs and caused difficulty in retaining bus services
in Surrey. The County Council has in the past been unable to award
contracts for evening services, as there were no operators willing
to run them, as they had no drivers available.
38. There is a need for the Government to consider a
review of key worker policy to provide assistance to bus drivers
in the same way as they do for health workers, teachers and police
39. Since the introduction of the Greater London Authority
there have been significant improvements in the communication
channels and there has been a better understanding of the need
for cross-border co-operation and collaboration.
40. There are some 36 bus routes which operate between
Surrey and London as follows:
|Bus Services||Number of Routes
|Contracted by the County Council||19
|Contracted by London Buses with Surrey County Council Support
|Contracted by London Buses without Surrey County Council Support
41. The County Council is currently in discussion with
London Buses as part of their cross-boundary review and includes
matters such as how far services should operate across the boundary.
There are benefits to both Surrey and London residents in seeking
to extend services beyond just the nearest key centre.
42. The County Council would like to see consistency
in the provision of services over an area basis rather than on
an individual corridor basis.
43. The differing fares regime causes a great deal of
concern to the residents in Surrey. For example, there has been
a substantial response to a recent Best Value Concessionary Fares
Survey (over 15,000 responses) conducted by the County Council
where many respondents have requested the same free fares as provided
for London residents.
44. The lack of Agents selling passes in Surrey is causing
problems and is an issue under consideration by London Buses.
45. There are inconsistencies on a number of routes,
for example, operating between Kingston and Esher, Kingston and
Molesey, Sutton and Banstead etc. where it is felt that a common
fare and pass regime should generally apply over the length of
all routes between these points whether provided by London Buses
or the County Council which is not currently the case. Again the
lack of recognition of Government in the SSA settlement on the
future of revenue funding for bus services outside London inhibits
the County Council from applying a London style fares regime on
its contracted services.
46. The County Council has adopted similar style bus
stops as used in London which are being introduced in Surrey on
an incremental basis using LTP funding. London Buses currently
provide bus stops on their contracted routes in Surrey.
47. The County Council has offered to fund the extension
of "Countdown" real time information across the border
into Surrey but London Buses have not been able to accommodate
this request. It is understood that resources and technical difficulties
prevent such work.
48. In summary the County Council would ask this Sub-Committee
(a) A review of long term revenue funding for local bus
services possibly linked to the LTP submission to ensure a revenue
stream to the authority and long term security and consistency
for the bus industry.
(b) A recognition of the special circumstances surrounding
the delivery of services in the south-east namely congestion,
high unit costs, driver shortage etc. and that this is taken into
account in the decision on revenue and Local Transport Plan bid
allocation as sought in (a) above.
(c) A review of planning policies to enable greater provision
of premises for garaging and maintenance of buses.
(d) A review of key worker policy to provide assistance
to bus drivers in the same way as they do for health workers,
teachers and police officers.
(e) A review of competition law as applied to the bus
industry by OFT to allow practical fares and ticketing policies
across the region to benefit users. This is required as even with
block exemptions operators still have concerns about entering
(f) The Traffic Commissioner be asked to take a more pragmatic
approach regarding the implementation of the new standards of
monitoring the performance of bus services.