Memorandum by Thurrock Council (Bus 20)
THE BUS INDUSTRY
UK BUS INDUSTRY,
1.1 As pressures on the private bus operators
are forcing them to cut registered bus routes and concentrate
on highly profitable corridors, a great squeeze is being placed
upon the local authority to find more revenue funding to subsidise
1.2 A lack of competing bus operators locally,
coupled with rising costs of delivering bus services has meant
that those established subsidised routes are costing the Authority
more when tendered, causing budgetary pressures.
1.3 At a time when Thurrock has received
an excellent LTP settlement for integrated transport together
with successful bids for real time information, there is concern
that the availability of revenue expenditure does not compliment
that currently being received for capital. Why can't capital expenditure
be used for funding subsidised services?
1.4 Thurrock has received successful bids
from both the urban and rural bus challenges which have been in
partnership with our community transport provider Trans-Vol. Community
transport has been a real success story in Thurrock as it has
established itself as a key component of integrated transport.
It provides a cost effective mode of affordable travel where both
subsidised and commercial routes are not viable. The three year
funding also enables time for planning and investment that isn't
possible on subsidised routes because of the uncertainties already
1.5 The rural bus grant has also been beneficial
as it has been for a fixed period, annually increased to reflect
increased cost, and had strict criteria on usage. There is a worry
how these services, which are becoming well established and meeting
a social need, will be funded once central government funding
2. THE RELATIVE
2.1 Thurrock has in the last three years
suffered from the poor delivery of its local commercial services
dominated by one major private company. The result was a three
month scrutiny investigation into the delivery of local bus service
in the borough. This report was sent to the DTLR and also taken
forward by ATCO (Association of Transport Co-ordinating Offices).
2.2 Presently the delivery of the service
remains poor, and the Authority is, where possible working closely
with the regulator to monitor the provision. It is therefore not
practical at this stage to be entering into Quality Partnership
2.3 A key commercial service of another
operator has been highlighted as an ideal QBP however the group
concerned is awaiting a new investment of vehicles which is proving
difficult to secure.
2.4 Greater feedback and guidance is required
on where successful quality contracts have been achieved.
3. THE IMPORTANCE
3.1 Thurrock has, as yet, no bus lanes,
but effective enforcement of such restrictions would seem essential.
3.2 The Essex wide (including Thurrock and
Southend) Bus Telematics project is very encouraging. Priority
measures built into traffic control systems are important and
increasingly provided. However there are still many areas where
it is not possible to give road space over to buses without major
4.1 As highlighted in 2.2 the Authority
has a good relationship with the Area Traffic Office in Cambridge.
However there is concern over the lack of resources available
from Cambridge to formally monitor services as it is recognised
that they have the power over poor performance of commercial bus
4.2 The Authority finds that subsidised
routes perform better than commercial ones because of the control
we have on them. Unless monitoring is done by the regulator, commercial
operators don't feel threatened.
4.3 With the Authority's policies focusing
on greater public transport usage, it is not only frustrating
that key components in achieving these are not being delivered
adequately by the commercial bus companies, but also that the
local authority has no control over them.
4.4 There is the critical issue of public
confidence. The public have no confidence in the level of service
and stability of commercially run operations.
5. THE CONTRIBUTION
5.1 In October 2001 Thurrock provided a
consultation document as requested by the Social Exclusion Unit
on "Social Exclusion and Transport" in the Borough.
This consultation built upon the work already commissioned by
Thurrock to investigate problems surrounding public transport.
5.2 It was apparent that even despite the
statutory concessionary fares scheme, fares levels are still a
barrier to social inclusion particularly young persons who are
classified as adults by the private operators at 14 years old.
The priorities of the commercial operators and the short fall
in bus subsidies as explained in section 1 further exacerbate
Passenger Transport Co-ordinator
11 April 2002