The shape of public transport could see a move towards a more demand-responsive model as the county council looks to provide the most cost-effective support to its subsidised bus network.
Cabinet members meet next week to consider a report which shines a light on the sustainability of supported bus services in the wake of numerous pressures within the industry.
The report says services will need to demonstrate better-value ways of meeting high priority journey needs such as food shopping and healthcare, rather than the current provision of costly bus services which have low passenger usage.
The council insists there won’t be a situation where people are ‘cut off’ from essential services and left with no options.
We recognise there will be challenges. For example, services could be designed which coincide with market days in specific local centres so people can travel at times which reflect the most demand.
Person: Councillor Ozzy O'Shea, county council cabinet member for highways and transport
Cabinet members will be updated next week on proposals to re-commence reviews over the next few months of more than 20 routes, which are either fully subsidised by the county council or part-subsidised in conjunction with commercial operators.
They will also be asked to approve a closely co-ordinated raft of engagement activity, including public meetings, which will reach out to affected communities.
While more than 90 per cent of bus services are run by the commercial sector council needs to reduce spend on its subsidised bus network to help address the significant funding gap it has over the next four years.
Members will also be told next week that tackling an overspend of £1m – resulting from a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges – will be central to the review.
These challenges include significant and continued reduction in bus use, fuel increases and driver shortages and the blow of missing out on Government funding towards the county’s Bus Service Improvement Plan.
The review of each route will determine whether to:
- Retain the existing bus service in its current form and carry on with the subsidy;
- Revise the existing service by looking at possible route changes, levels of frequency or days of operation;
- Withdraw the subsidy for the existing service which could be lost if the bus operator says it cannot continue to provide it when the subsidy is removed.
Mr O’Shea added: “If the recommendation on a particular route is to withdraw services, some residents may still have access to an alternative service.
“Where residents are left without access (over 800 metres) to an alternative service, we’ll look at providing a demand responsive transport service to cater for travel to essential services.
“When we reach out to communities which are affected, we’ll be asking for feedback about times, frequency and community-specific factors.”
Cabinet will discuss the report when it meets at 11am on Friday, 10th February – tune in and watch online at www.leicestershire.gov.uk/webcast