Agenda item

Bus Services

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (copy enclosed).



Members received a report that provided an update on bus service provision across the county.  The background was explained by the Assistant Director Highways and Transport. 


Members heard on 21 October 2021 Cabinet considered a report from the Cabinet Working Group – Transport in Cumbria, attached at appendix 1 and 2.  The report and its associated appendix were based on witness sessions held by the Group, national and local policy context and research. Having considered the contents of the Group’s report a response was provided by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (appendix 3) which was considered by Cabinet.  Alongside the report of the Cabinet Working Group, on 21 October 2021 Cabinet also approved the organisation’s first Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) (appendix 4).  The BSIP included a request to secure £64m of Government funding to deliver a range of improvements to local bus services across Cumbria.  Members noted that whilst 31 councils were successful in attracting additional funding over 40 including Cumbria County Council were not.  Despite the disappointing news the aspirations of the plan and the measures proposed within it still remained and officers would continue to work with partners to explore other potential sources of additional funding to help the new authorities realise their ambitions to improve public transport and public transport infrastructure.


Members were informed that BSIP was currently being reviewed and this would be utilised to reiterate the ambitions to the DfT and hopefully secure funding in future years. The Council would also shortly be agreeing an Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme (EPP&S) with the county’s bus operators which will formalise the content of the BSIP.  In due course it was likely that the 2 new authorities would publish their own BSIPs and develop their own EPP&S.


Members were aware that the Council had secured £1.5m funding from the DfT as part of its Rural Mobility Fund. In Summer 2023 a series of digital demand responsive transport solutions would be launched as pilot schemes serving the rural areas surrounding 4 of Cumbria’s market towns. These would cover a 15 mile radius of Penrith and Wigton and a 10 mile radius of Egremont/St Bees and Ulverston.  The schemes would serve rural areas surrounding the above stated towns currently with little or no scheduled bus services. It was anticipated that the transport would improve access to education, healthcare, employment and the leisure and retail offer in addition to supporting the night-time economy.  Engagement was undertaken with Members and the wider community in advance of the pilot scheme launch and during the subsequent evaluation exercises. It was hoped that if the schemes were successful and self-financing they could be implemented in other areas of the county.  The Council had £0.381m funding from the DfT as part of its Funding for Supported Bus Services initiative and following dialogue with Members it was suggested that a series of scheduled bus services were introduced serving areas with little or no current provision.  It was proposed that the services would run on a selected number of days during the week and be delivered by the Council’s in-house transport delivery team, Cumbria Transport Operational Team (CTOT).  This would provide a service for local communities and better utilise the CTOT vehicles which were predominantly only used for home to school transport and adult day opportunities routes.  The routes initially identified were listed in the report.  Further research into options around the development of improved rural accessibility was also being undertaken through a rural mobility framework. This would be complete by May 2023 and would support the implementation of the current Local Transport Plan (the Cumbria Transport and Infrastructure Plan) alongside the development of successor plans by Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness Councils.


Members, in discussion, recognised that bus routes had to be financially viable and utilised by the community they served.  The Assistant Director – Highways and Transport confirmed that under LGR the Service would be split in two.  A member stated that in-house services could be better utilised and suggested that partnership working with private providers takes place on this.  Members expressed the wish for integrated modes of transport such as aligned timetabling arrangements between bus and rail services. 


Members raised issues on bus services in their individual areas.  In discussion of Community Groups running bus services, the Assistant Director – Highways and Transport reported that the County Council supported community groups wherever possible. 


Members welcomed digital demand responsive transport solutions and noted that proved technology would be used for its pilot scheme, the aim of it being to provide rural bus services to town centres and other bus service routes.  Accessible (DDA) minibuses would be used for this.


To conclude members asked that the issues raised at the meeting be brought to the attention of the two new authorities.  These included having sustainable transport and working with private providers to improve bus services.


The Assistant Director – Highways and Transport was thanked for his attendance and informative report. 


RESOLVED,that the report be noted.


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