Review of Transport in Maidstone - alternatives to using a car - BUS SERVICES
- Meeting of Planning, Transport and Development Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday 30th September, 2014 6.30 pm (Item 69.)
- View the declarations of interest for item 69.
This is the second stage of the Committees review into Transport in Maidstone – alternatives to using a car.
This stage is focussing on Bus Services in the Borough.
· Matthew Arnold, Commercial Director, Arriva Buses;
· Norman Kemp, Nu Venture Coaches Ltd., and;
· Mike Fitzgerald, Chair East of Maidstone Bus Group.
The Chairman welcomed Mathew Arnold, Commercial Director, Arriva Buses; Norman Kemp, Nu Venture Coaches Ltd; Mike Fitzgerald, Chair East of Maidstone Bus Group; and Cllr Peter Spearink, Staplehurst Parish Council, and Vice-Chair of Hawkhurst Local Transport Accessibility Group; to the meeting.
During the discussion Councillor Chittenden, by virtue of being a member of the Quality Bus Partnership, disclosed an Other Significant Interest. Having disclosed the interest Councillor Chittenden left the meeting room until conclusion of the item.
The Chairman explained the Review of Transport in Maidstone had been set up in response to concerns about congestion in the borough. It was noted that the review had previously looked at cycling and walking while rail services would be considered in November 2014. As a result, the focus of the committee meeting would be bus services.
Mike Fitzgerald, Chair East of Maidstone Bus Group, informed the committee that the East of Maidstone Bus Group existed to consider and address issues raised by both members and operators to help improve and safeguard services across East Maidstone.
During discussion a number of issues were raised, including:
- Supported Routes and Commercial Routes. Mr Fitzgerald suggested that it would be helpful for the review to identify the number of commercial routes and the number of supported routes across the borough. In addition, it was suggested that areas/routes without evening/Sunday services should be mapped.
- Journey times and their impact on people deciding to travel by bus (or not). It was suggested that new routes should be considered side by side with the Local Plan.
- Community Bus Services. Mr Fitzgerald suggested that it would be unrealistic for local authorities to expect voluntary/community projects to compensate for decreased bus services.
- 106 agreements. It was agreed that where possible 106 agreements should be used to support new/revised routes especially those supporting the Rural Service Centres.
- It was agreed that consideration should be given to putting cycle shelters at key locations (bus connecting points) across the borough so people could leave bikes locked in the same way as at railway stations. In addition, it was suggested buses themselves should have facilities for carrying bicycles.
- Total Transport. It was noted that the Department of Transport had been doing work to support the integration of all services commissioned by central and local government and provided by different operators. Mr Fitzgerald suggested that Maidstone/Kent could be used by Government as a pilot for Total Transport.
In addition, issues in relation to the Quality Bus Partnership, the Punctuality and Improvement Partnership, the No59 bus route, Bus Shelters, Safe Journey and Better Journey Cards and Concession Passes (Start Times) were raised by Mr Fitzgerald. It was agreed that these issues should be considered in more detail by the Review Working Group outside of the meeting.
Cllr Peter Spearink, Staplehurst Parish Council and Vice-Chair of Hawkhurst Local Transport Accessibility Group, informed the committee that the group represented a very rural area, an area that relied on bus services due to limited rail services.
During discussion a number of issues were raised, including:
- The performance/reliability of the No5 bus route.
- The provision of school bus services. It was noted that many parents would not risk their children going to/from school via bus due to reliability/capacity issues. It was noted that better, more timely, information from Kent County Council, in relation to the issuing of bus passes for young people and those in school, college or training, would help bus operators to plan more effectively, especially at the start of the academic year when passes were (re) issued.
- Apps for mobile phones in relation to providing real time information and the location of buses. Mathew Arnold, Commercial Director, Arriva Buses noted that the recently launched Arriva App had been a significant development but concerns were raised that many older bus users did not have smart phones/tablets. It was noted that Arriva would be happy to supply real time information to anyone willing to display it. In view of this, it was agreed that the Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Development should be asked to provide the Review Working Group with further information about the re-tendering exercise for the provision and maintenance of bus shelters, and the selling of advertising at bus shelters, to enable consideration of how information about buses, including real time information and contact numbers for buses, could be displayed at bus shelters across the borough.
During the discussion the committee made reference to the report of the Overview and Scrutiny Officer which provided further information on the work of the review working group. It was noted the group had received feedback on bus services from borough and parish councillors and had met with Shane Hymers, Public Transport and Strategy Manager, Kent County Council, and Dan Bruce, Local Transport Planner (Mid Kent), Kent County Council. It was noted that these discussions had raised a number of issues and would be considered in more detail by the review working group outside of the meeting.
Key issues raised by Mathew Arnold, Commercial Director, Arriva Buses, and Norman Kemp, Nu Venture Coaches Ltd, related to bus reliability, punctuality and sustainability. The importance of having availability to the road network was noted in order for bus operators to deliver their services. The following points were raised:
- The impact of road closures on bus services, especially when timely information, about closures, was not received from Kent Highways.
- The fact that bus operators had limited opportunities to speak to local decision makers to discuss and resolve issues such as parking enforcement issues on bus routes and at bus stops. It was noted that, unlike Arriva, Nu Venture were not members of the Quality Bus Partnership. Norman Kemp informed the committee that he would welcome the opportunity for Nu Venture to attend such meetings.
- The impact of cuts to the bus service operators’ grant (BSOG) and evidence from a House of Commons Select Committee that had raised concerns about supported services and the ability for local authorities to respond to transport isolation.
- The ability for residents living in rural areas, such as Boughton Monchelsea, to use bus services to access the night time economy during the week or the town on a Sunday. Mathew Arnold agreed that it would be useful for bus operators to work together with local residents and their elected representatives to look at options in relation to twilight and Sunday services. It was agreed that funding streams, including European Funding, should be looked at closely to see whether such money could be used to support bus operators provide additional services in Maidstone, especially in the rural service centres.
Other issues discussed included looking at ways to ensure ideas for enhancements to services were communicated and dealt with effectively. For example:
- Regular integrated bus links from rural villages to train stations in Maidstone.
- Introducing a radial bus service for Maidstone.
- Routes convenient for local shops and doctors.
- Interchangeable tickets and ways to reduce costs for users
- Ways to provide money for infrastructure.
In summary, the Chairman noted that the review working group would continue to meet outside of the meeting and that a draft report would be presented to committee on 18 November 2014.
1. The evidence submitted to Committee, on 30 September 2014, be used by the Review of Transport in Maidstone Working Group to develop draft recommendations for consideration by Committee on 18 November 2014 as part of the draft report for stages one (Walking and Cycling) and two (Buses) of the review.
2. The Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Development be asked to provide the Review Working Group with further information about the re-tendering exercise for the provision and maintenance of bus shelters, and the selling of advertising at bus shelters, to enable consideration of how information about buses, including real time information and contact numbers for buses, could be displayed at bus shelters across the borough.
3. The membership of the Review of Transport in Maidstone Working Group be updated to include Cllr Willis.
- 140930 - Question Sheet, item 69. PDF 34 KB View as HTML (69./1) 4 KB
- 140930 Review of Transport in Maidstone - alterntives to using a car - Bus Services covering report, item 69. PDF 51 KB View as HTML (69./2) 15 KB
- Appendix A - Scoping Template - Transport, item 69. PDF 69 KB View as HTML (69./3) 31 KB
- 140930 Appendix B feedback from PCs on bus services, item 69. PDF 82 KB View as HTML (69./4) 69 KB
- 140930 Appendix C Questions to witnesses re bus services, item 69. PDF 69 KB View as HTML (69./5) 30 KB