For the record: three documents concerning Wiltshire Council's consultation on the future of bus subsidies in the county

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More than 11,000 people and businesses made their views known during Wiltshire  Council's consultation - which closed on April 4 - on the future of council subsidies for bus services in the county.

This review is part of Wiltshire Council's plans to save millions of pounds over the next three years.  No savings on bus subsidies will be made during this financial year.   

We publish below three documents that will be important evidence for the review.

1.  A letter from Devizes Passengers and Devizes Community Area Partnership with their response to the consultation:  

We attach our response on behalf of the Devizes area as well as that from Bus Users UK for your interest.  Below is a summary of our main concerns and conclusions. The end of the consultation is only the beginning of another exciting chapter.  As one door closes another opens so we also share our thoughts about the next stage for the Public Transport Review.
 
1.    The high response rate (at least 10,000) has shown that buses really matter to people across all of Wiltshire.  This has been a highly valuable awareness raising exercise for which we congratulate the Council. 

2.    We would like the Council to go further and lobby central Government about addressing the impact that current funding is likely to have on its bus services.

3.    Cutting bus services will particularly affect the young, the elderly, those without private transport and those with mobility problems.  The bus network boosts the local economy and helps keep cars off the road.  Buses give people independence to get about and help people lead socially active lives.  We have listed in paragraph 7 of our submission some examples of the negative effects of the loss of bus services.

4.    Wiltshire’s survey questions suggest that evening and Sunday services might be a luxury or not relevant to bus users. This is to misunderstand their current function and the future of our travel patterns.  Bus Users UK give a good example of longer term thinking in their response to Wiltshire Council: “Should the plans to amend Sunday trading laws go forward, this will result in extended opening hours but staff will not be able to access their places of employment if further cuts are made to bus services.”

5.    We appreciate the Council’s financial difficulties but we are not convinced by their calculations for savings. Reducing frequencies will have knock-on effects on ridership, and so is unlikely to achieve best value for slender public resources and will lead to a culture of bus decline.

6.    The approach we advocate is one of growth based on sound analysis of ridership and development.  Simplifying bus routes, highly visible marketing, improving the quality of information at bus stops, and if necessary extending the bus services into the evening or increasing their frequency should lead to better value.  The example we gave was of the Trans Wilts rail service project which has recently demonstrated the positive effects of investing in increasing frequencies (see paragraph 9 of our submission).  

7.    We believe there are opportunities to improve the efficiency of the bus network such as the somewhat chaotic 77/85/87 services west of Devizes (see paragraph  21).  It makes no sense for subsidies to be spent on services which perform no useful purpose, and therefore drive around empty. On the other hand the network gaps between Devizes and Marlborough and Stonehenge Visitor Centre strike us as vital tourist opportunities ready to be pursued.  

8.    Despite its bleak funding future, Wiltshire has worked hard with the communities of Devizes and Pewsey and invested in new Connect2Wiltshire semi-flexible routes for the Pewsey Vale, which combine direct routing to the railway station with deviations to villages.  This is a valuable pilot from which Wiltshire Council stands to gain unique experience that can be deployed in other areas of sparse travel demand including suburban areas.  This pilot should be given enough time and continued resource to mature and learn from.

9.    Wiltshire’s planning policies for new housing are predicated on developing and promoting sustainable transport. This is incompatible with removing bus services or reducing the network.

10.    Wiltshire’s bus network policy should be one that leads to better use of its public transport investment and that makes it easier for people to travel without a car.

11.    We set out our aims for the next stage of the review in Section 37.
Devizes Passengers & Devizes Community Area Partnership (transport interests)
Affiliated to:  Bus Users UK/Campaign for Better Transport/Sustainable Devizes

The full Devizes response can be read here.

2.  A letter to Wiltshire Councillor Philip Whitehead and Phil Grocock of Wiltshire Council from Dr Sam Page of Transition Marlborough:  

We are writing to confirm that we fully support the Devizes Passengers' call for an expansion to our bus services and our town council's resolution not to support any reduction in subsidised bus services, on the grounds that they would cause serious economic and social damage to our town.

There is need for a regular bus service between Marlborough and Devizes as well as bus services that are fully integrated with the rail network, including at commuting times, in accordance with LTP 3/4.

Furthermore, any cuts to our bus services would contravene United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11:
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Target 11.2 By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.

The UK signed up to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015.

Please note the following resolution:

The Town Council’s resolution on the WC consultation was:
 
582/15 WILTSHIRE COUNCIL CONSULTATION – REVIEW OF SUBSIDISED BUS SERVICES Members considered a corporate response to the county-wide consultation. Main concerns were that:
·       All listed bus services were important
·       Any withdrawal of funding for buses would have a knock on effect on the town’s air quality as more cars took         to the road
·       The impact on those using the services to commute to work
·       The importance of links to rail services
·       The importance of retaining links to other towns (in particular, Swindon and Salisbury)
·       The impact on the elderly who used the bus services to travel around the town
·       The impact on those using the service to travel to hospital (GWH, RUH and Savernake)
·       The social impact of reducing costs was higher than the savings to be made.
 
It was noted that the feedback would be contrary to Option 6 of the consultation review document – Withdraw all funding for all council subsided services.
 
RESOLVED: by 11 votes for with 1 abstention that Marlborough Town Council does not support any reduction in subsidised bus services as they would cause serious economic and social disadvantage to the town.
Yours sincerely
Dr Sam L J Page (Transition Marlborough)


3.  A reply to Dr Page from Councillor Philip Whitehead:  

Dear Dr Page

Thank  you for your email, it will be considered with the rest of the responses.
 
With regard to your comment:
 
"Furthermore, any cuts to our bus services would contravene United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11:
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
 
Target 11.2 By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.

The UK signed up to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015."
 
I think that this point should be sent to the UK government as such a goal is only achievable if the correct funding is available for local government and the UK signed up for it as opposed to the local council.
 
Regards Philip
 
Philip Whitehead
Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Councillor for Urchfont and The Cannings

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