Memorandum by Coventry City Council and
Centro (WMPTE) (Bus 43)
THE RELATIVE MERITS OF BUS QUALITY PARTNERSHIPS
AND BUS QUALITY CONTRACTS
1. This submission sets out the work that
Coventry and Centro are doing in order to develop an area wide
improvement in local bus services. There is concern that the delivery
of sustainable improvements quickly and effectively, and sustaining
them, may not be achieved through the application of a Quality
Bus Partnership. This paper proposes that the Quality Contract
mechanism needs to be considered as a means of addressing this
issue, but also highlights potential difficulties in delivering
a Quality Contract due to the current Government position on the
2. Coventry is a Metropolitan District Council
in the West Midlands Metropolitan County.
3. Centro is the West Midlands Passenger
Transport Executive implementing the policies of the West Midlands
Passenger Transport Authority comprising 27 elected Members drawn
from the seven West Midlands Metropolitan Councils of which Coventry
is one. WMPTA is funded by a levy on the seven Metropolitan Councils
drawn on a per capita basis and the levy is set jointly by all
4. The powers and regulations relating to
Bus Quality Partnerships (QBP's) and Bus Quality Contracts (QBC's)
are set in the Transport Act 2000. The Passenger Transport Authority
is the nominated Authority with powers to implement QBP's and
5. Coventry lies on the Eastern extremity
of the West Midlands, surrounded to the South, East and North
by Warwickshire, bordering Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
and the rest of the West Midlands to the West.
6. A public transport network of bus and
rail serves Coventry, with direct rail services to Birmingham,
Rugby, Leamington, Warwick and Nuneaton. The bus network is predominantly
made up of radial routes serving the population in the major corridors
surrounding the City Centre.
7. Population of Coventry in 2000 was 301,900,
representing 11.6 per cent of total West Midlands Population (Centro
Annual Statistical Report 2000-01).
8. The area is well served by the road network.
The M6 is within a few miles of the City Centre to the North,
with dual carriageway "A" roads serving the conurbation
with a network of radial routes. Car modal share has increased
from 74.7 per cent in 1997 to 75.2 per cent in 1999 (Centro Annual
Statistical Report 2000-01).
9. Buses account for the majority of public
transport trips in the area, the majority of which are run on
a commercial basis. Currently Centro subsidises socially necessary
bus services at a cost of £555,000 per annum. Average weekly
bus service kilometres operated in Coventry are 222,000 km, of
which only 20,000 km are subsidised routes. This represents 7.9
per cent of the total West Midlands bus vehicle kilometres (Centro
Annual Statistical Report 2000-01).
10. Travel West Midlands (TWM) is the dominant
operator in the West Midlands, operating over 80 per cent of all
commercial services in Centro's area and has invested heavily
in new buses in recent times, introducing low floor buses across
the fleet. However, it still returned a pre-tax profit margin
of 25 per cent during 2001. This profit level, of some £44
million, equates to the concessionary travel payments made to
the company by Centro.
11. In Coventry, TWM predominantly runs
services within the main conurbation, with Stagecoach running
cross boundary services from Coventry into Warwickshire.
12. Currently one Bus Showcase route "Primeline",
running between Coventry and Nuneaton, has been developed in Coventry.
This scheme is a partnership between Centro, Coventry City Council,
Warwickshire County Council and bus operators TWM and Stagecoach.
Both companies operate services along the route.
13. Plans for further Showcase schemes in
the current Local Transport Plan are:
Binley Road (Routes 13, 34)
|Lockhurst Lane and Wheelwright Lane||2002-03
|City centre to Walsgrave (Routes 32/33)
|City centre to Tanyard Farm (Routes 32/33)
|Bell Green to Willenhall (Route 21)||2004
14. Additional bus routes are being considered for Showcase
and there is a Local Transport Plan bid being made for a Bus Showcase
Network for Coventry.
15. There are currently two bus based Park and Ride schemes.
The North Park and Ride operates from Bell Green to the City Centre,
with the South Park and Ride running into the City Centre from
the Memorial Park. There are plans to develop Park and Ride in
the West and East of the City in the coming years. The remainder
of the Coventry bus network is based upon a set of historically
based routes that have remained unchanged for a long period of
16. Coventry City Council is of the view that the network
does not serve the Coventry population well and the Coventry Area
Network Study (CANS) was commissioned in June 2001 to see how
this situation could be improved. Oscar Faber undertook the work
managed by a steering Group comprising of Centro, Coventry City
Council and Warwickshire County Council. The aim of the CANS study
was to develop a strategy for improving public transport provision
in Coventry and the surrounding area of Warwickshire.
17. The Study concluded that the only viable public transport
option in the short to medium term is through improved bus services.
The constituent parts of a quality bus network are well known
and include bus priority, turn-up-and-go frequency, a reliable
timetable with realistic layovers, real time information and integrated
ticketing. The report highlights the problems associated with
achieving this if the operating costs exceed the revenue and hence
the service provision is not attractive to commercial companies.
Attracting capital funding for bus priority is straight forward
and a bid is being prepared for the next Local Transport Plan
18. The outcome of the study focused on the difficulty
in delivering improved bus services led to the issue of quality
contracts versus quality partnerships being addressed in the report.
The debate around the merits of the two approaches focused on
the ability to specify service levels, procure new routes, increase
frequencies, better serve communities with poor passenger transport
provision and possibly re-invest a higher proportion of profits
into service provision than what currently occurs. The report
highlighted the above issues for further attention.
19. A further element of the Study included a visit to
Karlisruhe, Saarbrucken and Nancy. The high quality of public
transport service integration and co-ordination was apparent from
the higher level of transport regulation administered by the local
transport authorities. Additionally, the attractiveness of Light
Rapid Transit and Guided Light Transit ("People Mover")
was recommended by the study due to the schemes being able to
deliver reliability and be operated on a contract basis.
20. During July and August 2001 when the CANS work was
in progress bus services in Coventry were particularly unreliable,
leading to public complaints and subsequent frustration of the
City Council and Passenger Transport Authority Members being powerless
to correct matters. Equally the Traffic Commissioner had little
evidence on which to take action. The problem was apparently caused
by a severe bus driver shortage affecting mainly TWM services.
This situation has been resolved to some degree but the recruitment
and retention of drivers remains an issue.
21. This event gives real cause for concern in the implementation
of area wide bus improvement strategies and there is doubt that
an area Quality partnership would enable such events to be dealt
22. Centro and Coventry are proposing to take CANS forward
by developing a joint Coventry Bus Strategy for an area wide improvement
in bus services including recent changes to bus access in Coventry
city centre, improvements to local estate services and to main
23. The West Midlands Local Transport Plan 2000 Bus Strategy
recognises the importance of bus services in Coventry and acknowledges
that CANS will provide the basis for a local area strategy. The
Bus Strategy also refers to the objective of a City Centre Statutory
Bus Quality Partnership which would seek to maintain bus service
quality in the city centre following the recent strategic changes
in bus access. These features would be part of an area wide agreement
24. The advantages of a bus network investment package
It provides the greatest benefit to achieving transport policy
of optimising overall transport capacity by radically improving
the attractiveness of the public transport "offer".
It enables a rapid and comprehensive improvement benefiting
most bus users in Coventry, the Warwickshire hinterland and assisting
social inclusion objectives.
It responds very effectively to the Government's Bus Agenda
developing from the 10 Year Transport Plan.
It provides clarity for local highway authorities, Centro
and bus operators in focussing resources over a defined three
to five year implementation programme.
25. An integrated bus strategy for Coventry includes
a range of service quality standards including:
Improved bus reliability and journey times through
comprehensive measures and enforcement on bus traffic routes supported
by bus lanes and junction improvements and key "bus trouble
spots" addressed off the main network.
Inclusion of key cross boundary bus routes with
new park and ride developments to attract customers.
Comprehensive easy access bus boarder provision
at stops with quality shelters and at-stop bus information.
Improved interchange facilities at key intersections
and development of the City Centre Bus Hubs, to provide improved
access for "estate" services.
Improved daytime and evening frequencies including
Smartcard ticketing system (current LTP project)
and review of fare levels with operators.
26. Bus Operators will be invited to propose how they
might deliver the Strategy. The Coventry Bus Strategy is being
worked up for approval of Authority and Coventry City Council
during the summer.
27. The memorandum submitted to this Sub Committee by
Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) is supported.
28. A comparison of bus patronage levels in London and
the West Midlands PTE area between 1990-91 and 2000-01 shows a
very different picture. Annual patronage in London has grown by
15 per cent from 1.178 to 1.359 million whereas annual patronage
for the West Midlands has declined by 12 per cent from 403 to
353 million (Source: DTLR Regional Transport Statistics, November
29. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) examined
issues relating to the provision of better buses in the UK and
published a book on the subject in February 2001. IPPR could find
no justification for there being one means of delivering bus services
in London and a completely different approach in the major conurbations
outside London. IPPR recommended the use of bus quality contracts
in the latter.
30. However, one difficulty with the implementation of
bus quality contracts is the time needed to introduce them. Following
all the processes means that quality contracts cannot be introduced
within three years. One major issue is the stipulation that there
has to be a 21 month period between approval by the Secretary
of State for Transport and introduction. This period is considered
to be excessive and unnecessary.
31. Legislation states that it is for PTA's/PTE's to
initiate Quality Bus Partnerships and Quality Bus Contracts. It
is expected that the WMPTA will endorse this approach on 13 May
32. The West Midlands Bus Strategy document states that,
"implementation of the Strategy will be based on existing
delivery mechanisms, new voluntary arrangements and statutory
Bus Quality Partnerships. However, WMPTA is sceptical that all
improvements can be achieved in these ways and does not accept
the Government's view that Statutory Quality Contracts should
only be seen as a tool of last resort to deliver improvements.
Delivery of the strategy will therefore be monitored, and if delivery
mechanisms fail to bring to fruition the improvements needed,
then WMPTA will seek to pursue Statutory Quality Contracts in
the West Midlands". Centro and Coventry will examine the
extent to which quality partnerships or quality contracts are
the most economic, efficient and effective way of the bus improvements
identified in the Coventry Area Network Study.
33. In the late 1990s, the Passenger Transport Executive
Group, looked at the possibilities of revising legislation to
improve the quality of bus services. As part of this work, Coventry
was chosen as a potential test bed for "bus franchising"
and a prototype area specification was drawn up. This work will
be reviewed as part of the joint work in developing the Coventry
34. The work on the Coventry Bus Strategy will incorporate
the following quality items. It will include consideration of
how best to set and monitor service performance standards, including
how these might be applied for bus services on congested highways.
The following table sets down quality features that users
would like to see and gives an initial analysis of the extent
to which they can be delivered under QBPs and QCs.
|Real competition||No change
|Frequency||Cannot be specified
|Service stability||Voluntary agreement only
|Responsiveness to complaints||Voluntary agreement only
|Affordabilityfares||Cannot be specified
|Fare collection systems eg change giving
||Operators may resist||Yes
|Integrated ticketing||Voluntary agreement only
|Customer caredriver training||Voluntary agreement only
|Specify network of services||No
|Passenger information||Operator obligation under Transport Act 2000
|Integration with other services||Unlikely
|Data capture||Voluntary agreement only
|Performance standards||Voluntary agreement only
|Enforcement powers||Through Traffic Commissioner only
|Punctuality/reliability||Limited under Traffic Commissioner
|Concessionary fare calculation||Existing costly arrangements continue
||Less cost, part of overall contract|
|Marketing of the Network||Likely
35. This submission reflects work in progress. There
is an urgency to deliver the improvements to bus services across
Coventry in order to achieve the changes to modal shift and improve
accessibility for the community as a whole in line with the Government's
10 Year Plan and the Transport Act 2000. Centro and Coventry want
a Quality Contract to be available as a practical option as well
as a Quality Partnership to be available as options for implementation
of the Coventry Bus Strategy.
36. Centro and Coventry are entering into discussions
with the DTLR to determine how to move the issue forward.