The Swindon Labour Group have responded to Swindon’s Conservative administration’s Bus Strategy Review. The consultation period for this strategy review closed on the 22nd August.
Key elements of the strategy include:
· The likely closure of all bus services that depend on Swindon Council funding support,
· The availability of commercial bus services evening and Sunday services put under threat after the Conservative Cabinet commit to withdraw all funding to keep these services available at all times and days of the week. This will effect nearly all bus services that currently depend on Council funding to keep open services in the evenings and on Sundays
· All use of S106 developers money for public transport to be used to extend existing bus services to new developments, rather than establishing new bus services as has been done in the past
· A Community Link Bus Service will be set up to enable mini buses to replace existing bus services to rural areas and the Dial a Ride service which transports the town’s most disabled people
The Labour Group responded by submitting the following:
Labour Group Response to Bus Strategy Review
The Swindon Labour Group are opposed to the key policy pledges in this Local Bus Strategy and believe the expectations set within the strategy are unachievable without council funding support. Indeed, we have noted that all transport principles and expectations drafted within the first twelve pages of the strategy document are subsequently reversed when on Page 13 it states “The withdrawal of revenue support funding may mean that further prioritisation is required within these principles”.
Furthermore, the administration are committing other organisations to funding bus services who have given no commitment and indeed are in most cases not even considering at the present time, to fund local bus services. However we believe the least mobile, the most vulnerable in our borough, will be the biggest losers from this strategy and from funding cuts. Despite suggestions made in the strategy about using a communal bus link point to get bus users across the borough, the fact is that this is not practical for many disabled people and for them to get anywhere they need a door to door, specialised service.
We will now respond directly to each section of the strategy.
Cutting of all revenue supported budgets to bus services
As mentioned above, the cutting of council funding for bus services will mean that some of the bus service expectations mentioned in the strategy will not be able to be delivered.
Revised Bus Strategy Principles
The funding priority away from evening and Sunday bus services will lead to the further diminishing of Swindon’s commercial bus network. It is well known that in order to maximise the number of people using bus services they need a reliable and frequent service that is available at all times of the week. By cutting funding for evening and Sunday services you are jeopardising the current commercial network.
We welcome the creation of a Bus Network Partnership Board and believe it could be a useful body in generating closer working between the Council and Bus Operators.
The Bus Link Services may deliver some value, given you are cutting all revenue funding for existing bus services. However this will be no replacement for the current services offered to bus users and any suggestion that this service could replace the Dial a Ride service for disabled people is simply illogical and shows a lack of appreciation for the mobility challenges Dial a Ride users face.
In terms of the principles surrounding making bus services more reliable and punctual, we support such an initiative. However given your record on delivering such measures is non-existent we have no faith that these are anything other than positive words.
As mentioned earlier, by the Council withdrawing all funding for bus services, it has no influence to deliver on the expectations set in the Bus Charter.
As mentioned earlier, the suggestion that the Dial a Ride service can be incorporated in to a BusLink or travel vouchers to offer taxi services, is a complete misunderstanding of the mobility challenges Dial a Ride users face to get anywhere without a door-to-door service.
Section 106 developer funding
We believe it is sensible to expect bus services to new developments, paid for through S106 money, will be provided through alterations and extensions to existing services.
We have said before in our response that we are against the withdrawal of revenue support funding for bus services. However when the Conservative administration do withdraw all funding we believe the priority for any further services should be based around the number of people we can help, not geographical location.