Integrated Transport Unit - Response to the National Bus Strategy (Published 15th March 2021)
National Bus Strategy – what is expected
- The strategy outlines ways that buses can become the mode of choice by being more frequent, more reliable, easier to understand, cheaper to use and better co-ordinated
- This is outlined in the strategy as a fully integrated service, simple multi-modal tickets, bus priority measures, high quality information for customers and services that keep running into evenings and weekends
The timeline for Local Authorities to achieve this ambition is:
- By the end of June 2021 - LTAs will need to commit to establishing Enhanced Partnerships under the Bus Services Act
- By the end of October 2021 each LTA will need to publish a local Bus Service
Improvement Plan. Each plan will need to be updated annually and reflected in the authority’s Local Transport Plan and in other relevant local plans such as
Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs).
From April 2022, LTAs will need to have an Enhanced Partnership in place, or be following the statutory process to decide whether to implement a franchising scheme in order to access the new discretionary streams of bus funding. Only services operated or measures taken under an Enhanced Partnership or where a franchising scheme has been made will be eligible to receive the new funding streams.
Below are some specifics areas that are outlined in the Bus Strategy document and response from the Integrated Transport Unit (in bold) on how Hertfordshire County Council are aiming to achieve the ambition set out
- Hertfordshire already have an Enhanced Partnership in place. The Intalink Enhanced Partnership was adopted in April 2020. This was the first Enhanced Partnership in the country. The Enhanced Partnership Improvement Plan has been put together to jointly work with bus operators and districts on the objectives below:
- Prioritising bus services in traffic
- Improving the image of buses
- Upgrading bus infrastructure
- Closer integration of the bus network
- Smarter use of data and information.
Bus Service Improvement Plan
- This forms the bulk of the strategy document and sets out the ways that Local Authorities should develop detailed plans in collaboration with local operators, community transport groups and local businesses
- The document states that this plan should cover the full area of authority and differing needs within that area
- It should address under and over provision of bus services and detail how the authority will look to rebalance provision, grow bus use and deliver better services
- There are a number of elements that should form the plan, namely: Targets for journey times and reliability improvements, where bus priority measures are needed, moving bus fleets to zero emissions, targets for passenger growth and passenger satisfaction, plans for fares, ticketing and modal integration, consider the impact of roadside infrastructure to safety, security and accessibility, outline how the network will serve schools, health, social care, employment and other services, ensure the views of local people are sought and factored in and a Bus Passenger Charter is drawn up
- It will further need to explain how services meet or fall short of expectations, the model of financial support for subsided routes for social necessary services and how traffic management is used to prioritise buses
- A number of these areas are currently in development within Hertfordshire. The measures set out in the strategy give a foundation for HCC to use when in discussion with local operators to formulate a comprehensive plan. As work does not need to take place on setting up an Enhanced Partnership, significant time can be devoted to this plan over the coming months.
Some of the projects being implemented currently are:
- Bus priority schemes in St Albans, Stevenage and Watford which consists of quick wins such as removing parking bays, double yellow lines and bus laybys
- Bus stop/shelters roadside infrastructure refurbishment on corridors
- Further Bus priority schemes are being developed in Hitchin, Hemel Hempstead and Hertford to Lea Valley corridors
- 15+ new display screens in areas where it has been assessed there is significant usage
Demand Responsive Transport
- The strategy details how effective DRT services can be, especially in more rural areas that have infrequent fixed bus route services.
- A DRT service works by taking bookings from customers (usually via an app or phone line) and then building routes with virtual bus stops to transport customers efficiently within a specific area (or service zone). No fixed route, timetable or infrastructure is needed
- Hertfordshire County Council have been successful in being awarded £1.4million from the Department of Transport to implement DRT. The objective of the DRT is to improve transport in North and East Herts and to improve connections between rural areas and town centres, as well as expand access to employment, education, healthcare, and shopping. The DRT service will help to reduce social isolation and improve accessibility for transport-disadvantaged people in the focus area, particularly people who have access to neither private cars nor public transport.
- The proposed scheme would serve North and East Herts, focusing primarily on Buntingford and surrounding areas. Travel would be allowed anywhere within this zone, however, passengers would also be able to travel to key points (such as hospitals and high streets) within the six main towns surrounding the area: Royston, Letchworth, Hitchin, Stevenage, Bishop’s Stortford and Baldock.
Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA)
- The strategy details the ambition of ensuring a greener fleet of bus services across the country. This specific scheme aims to deliver 4000 zero emission buses by 2025 and the Department for Transport will be accepting expressions of interest for this scheme in the summer of 2021.
- Hertfordshire County Council are currently awaiting the full detail of the scheme and will then put in a bid
- The strategy is welcomed and offers clarity on the range of measures expected to increase bus patronage.
- The document does detail a shift from full deregulation to an offering that is much more collaborative between commercial operators and local authorities (in line with the ethos of Enhanced Partnerships)
- Further work needs to be undertaken to identify how some of that detail will alter current policies. The terms of reference for a network review are currently being drafted to better understand under and over provision of services and how Hertfordshire can deliver a bus network that meets the needs of a range of users in our area
- A full paper and roadmap are currently being drafted and will be outlined in the coming months