Memorandum by Eastleigh BC (Bus 17)
THE BUS INDUSTRY
1. Eastleigh Borough Council recognises
that the Government is committed to improving public transport.
The Council acknowledges that significant levels of capital funding
are being made available to support infrastructure improvements
within the bus and rail industry over the life of the Ten Year
Transport Plan. There remains however, a significant level of
concern that the need for increases in revenue funding, both for
infrastructure maintenance and more importantly subsidies for
local bus services, is being ignored.
2. Investing capital in improving roadside
infrastructure (eg bus stops, shelters, passenger interchanges
and timetable information) and providing bus priority measures
may well promote a mode shift and increase in patronage levels
in the medium to longer term. However, in the more immediate short
term, certainly in the Borough of Eastleigh, commercial services
alone are not providing the comprehensive route and timetable
network, with buses running at times and to the right destinations,
required to meet the needs of the local community, particularly
those residents who have a car available as the easy alternative.
3. This situation will be made worse in
the Borough of Eastleigh when the principal local bus operator
publishes its summer 2002 timetable in which one key local service
is being withdrawn completely and another is suffering service
level cuts from one bus every 20 minutes to one bus every half
hour. The withdrawal of the service 41 is particularly discouraging
as this in one of three local routes included in the Eastleigh
Area Quality Bus Partnership.
4. Hampshire County Council provides subsidies
for local services. However, Eastleigh Borough Council has recognised
a need for additional evening and Sunday services that would not
be operated commercially, and which do not meet the County Council's
criterion for subsidy, and as a result allocates in excess of
£100,000 annually to extend County Council contracts and
to provide directly subsidised services. Despite the efforts of
both local authorities the network of subsidised services, which
is designed to fill gaps left by commercial services, does not
provide a bus service network that really provides an attractive
alternative to the car. Nor does the combination of these commercial
and subsidised services provide enough buses to reduce social
exclusion to those members of the community who do not have access
to a car.
5. Again the situation regarding socially
necessary subsidised bus services in the Borough of Eastleigh
will become worse in May following a £400,000 cut in County
Council bus subsidies county wide. Some £10,000 of these
cuts will affect local services Eastleigh.
6. I would suggest that in terms of delivering
improved public transport services we are in a chicken and egg
situation. Demand has not yet grown sufficiently to justify additional
commercial services so as to provide a comprehensive bus network
or timetable in a semi urban area such as the Borough of Eastleigh.
I am sure that a similar situation exists in other non urban boroughs
and districts around the country. We don't all have the critical
mass of cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester.
7. In conclusion I would suggest that there
is an immediate need for more buses running more often for longer
periods to build up passenger confidence. This should happen in
parallel to providing bus priority measures and roadside infrastructure
improvements. It may be that in the medium to long term patronage
levels will increase sufficiently to reduce the need for subsidies
but in the meantime the Government should look to allocate increased
revenue funding to public transport as well as capital investment.
If no additional funds are available then I would suggest that
the "rules of engagement" for the use of Local Transport
Plan funding should be relaxed so that monies may be used for
revenue support as well as capital works. The fact that LTP funding
is in theory available over a five year time frame would enable
revenue support to be maintained over a sufficient period to develop
Transport Policy Manager