Option 24/7 for Wiltshire's buses
Looking forward for Wiltshire's public transport

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Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment

Last year (2015), starting in April, Wiltshire Council investigated options for reducing the amount of money it spends on subsidising public transport buses, with a view to halving the amount spent. Through the summer and autumn, stakeholder meetings were held, inputs sought and a public consultation put together which ran from January until early April this year (2016). Some 11,500 responses were received - making it the second biggest response to any Wiltshire consultation to date.

Wiltshire has a history of community interest in public transport, and a number of us learned quite early on of the "Public Transport Review" and its financial objectives. We were (and still are) concerned at the social impact, economic impact and impact on other bus services and wider budgets of simply looking at each supported service and choosing what to cut. Cutting purely supported services threatens a downward spiral, with reduced use of remaining supported, and connecting commercial services too, with more services then needing support and more difficult "what do we cut next" decisions on an annual basis.

After Wiltshire Council started their work, we had a general election and returned a Conservative government. And in the autumn, there were widely touted suggestions of a "Buses Bill" to be forthcoming, offering to rebalance some issues in the current bus service provision regime which had proven to be impractical or not always in everyone's best interest. Wiltshire Council took heed of this, but as their consultation briefing notes explained there were substantial systemic and timing risks involved in offering elements of the new (and at that point unspecified) systems in the poll of public opinion.

During December, the 'drift' of the Bus Bill became much clearer, so when the public consultation went live in January we (as a community group) were able to have a much better bet on what could be there than the timing card the council had drawn. Thus was born the "option 24/7" suggestion, widening the scope of the review to look at public transport as a network / system rather than just the 44% to 50% of subsidised buses in isolation, and looking at the mechanism expected to be in place or nearly in place by the time that the budgetary savings are called for.

Initial 'official' reaction to Option 24/7 popping up on the scene wasn't exactly welcoming. However, from a London conference in February and further briefings it became the more likely that Option 24/7 ideas were in line with the forthcoming government's legislation, and that both the legislation and the Option 24/7 suggestions addressed the "elephants in the room" - ensuring continuity and return on investment for operators, dealing with cross-border issues, providing a system that does if necessary allow the clothing to be cut from the cloth that's available, yet providing a wider range of network opportunities and a much better and interchangeble fare and information system.

If you had asked me in mid January what I thought the probable outcome of the consultation would be, I would have said that in all likelyhood the inputs would have been noted but that decisions would be based purely on offered alternatives. However, things moved forward. Alternative significant public campaigns which called for "as is" retention didn't take note of either the council's requirement to save, nor future year spiralling of costs. And our proposals looked increasingly in line with government thinking, increasingly moderate, increasingly taking account of all parties, increasingly researched, and likely to be rather more popular than any of the council's options at the May 2017 Council elections. On the downside, there remained / remains the concern of the bus operators (but then if the council cuts support as originally in the options they still loose millions and don't get anything more stable for next year). There remained the small matter of the proposed law and what it would contain. Anyway - the consultation closed and we've had the opportunity to discuss with officers, to present to the Public Transport Review Board, and we're now embarking on deeper technical discussions. No decision made yet - but a very fair look being taken at all the options, and a proper evaluation being made.

The draft bill - now known as the "Bus Services Bill" - was announced in the Queen's speech earlier this month. It's had its first reading in the House of Lordsalready. It's been published together with guidance online. And we've had a change to look through it, discuss it with others from around the country and indeed with central contacts, and on Friday we presented what we believe it can do in a Wiltshire context to our MP, Michelle Donelan. The story is very much a positive one; no great shocks and pretty well what we had anticipated in the bill. Michelle and her team, who offered us support at both political and press levels, will be continuing to do so. And we have our next meeting (the first after the bill's publication) with Wiltshire Council coming up very quickly; it's clearer now what we haveto do to persue this option.

I have 'mirrored' the Bus Service Bill publications, and also our presentations to Wiltshire Council, on our links page - http://option247.uk/links.html . Further detail is being worked on, and will be published via the website and Facebook group ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/option247 ) together with the MP presentation once the Wiltshire Council meeting has gone ahead.

Should meetings go well these next 10 days, we'll need to move the community involvement onto a formal base - I've already had requests to engage with service providers formally, and without a formal setup to do so, that's kinda hard. But it can be set up quite quickly, probably under the TransWilts CIC umbrella where the constitution allows formal partnership working like the one we have on the trains (and I say "we" because quite a few of our team are TransWilts members).

A diary date - Saturday 25th June. Venue to be advised but it WILL be reachable by bus. A public briefing, and looking forward to the next stages. I can't give you an agenda just yet, because it depends on what happens in the meantime.

A big "thank you" for your support / assistance so far. We may appear to have been quiet for the past couple of months, but that's simply because the work that's been going on has been in the background and we've been keeping our limited resources concentrated on that; we can and will be calling on people to be heavily involved as we (hopefully) move forward; a public transport network for the future - fit for the purpose of residents, visitors, bus operators, councils, government and the public purse and economy is possible. Wiltshire finds itself well positioned to proudly take a lead.

(written 2016-05-30)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z511 - Public Transport - Road
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4683] Saudi Arabia or Weymouth? - (2016-05-22)
  [4670] The end, or the start? - (2016-04-05)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4664] Mallory Place bus stop - services to Bath - (2016-03-25)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [4654] Getting to the Royal United Hospital - the Hopper and the alternatives - (2016-02-24)
  [4648] Why is bus funding a much hotter topic than a new set of traffic lights? - (2016-02-16)
  [4639] Working out the costs of running a bus service through the day - (2016-02-06)
  [4636] Rail user groups worried about what is happening on the buses - (2016-01-31)
  [4631] What would the Wiltshire Council bus cuts mean for Melksham? - (2016-01-25)
  [4629] Making travel time useful time on public transport - (2016-01-22)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)
  [4615] Questions for First (West of England) - (2016-01-05)
  [4592] A comparison of the public transport alternatives to the Royal United Hospital, Bath - from Melksham. - (2015-12-06)
  [4547] RUH Hopper - experience and thoughts forward - (2015-10-20)
  [4546] Is the RUH hopper a limited, duplicate service running unnecessarily and at high cost? - (2015-10-18)
  [4500] The TransWilts Community Intergrated Transport Corridor - (2015-05-29)
  [4425] A Welsh valley - what the transport looks like in 2015 - (2015-02-14)
  [4290] National Express replaced by train and by Megabus from Chippenham to London - (2014-07-16)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4263] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge, public transport over Easter (2014) - (2014-04-12)
  [4257] Over a pound a kilometre - my bus in Weston-super-mare - (2014-04-06)
  [4247] You wait a long time - then buses come in threes. It's timetabled that way! - (2014-03-09)
  [4240] Melksham Rail Link - (2014-01-27)
  [4228] Mallory Place, The Spa, Wellington Drive, Melksham - a Christmas present for you - (2013-12-26)
  [4194] TransWilts Link - meeting notes from 19th October - (2013-10-20)
  [4192] A positive progress behind the scenes - (2013-10-14)
  [4191] Getting people to and from Melksham Station - not 20 but 700 times a day - (2013-10-12)
  [4190] A radical proposal - a cheap and effective way to provide home to city commuter transport - (2013-10-11)
  [4186] Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point? - (2013-10-06)
  [4181] Grumbling about trains? Buses can be far worse! - (2013-09-29)
  [4179] Changing transport and destinations - looking forward to a good future - (2013-09-19)
  [4171] Mapping road accidents in Melksham and elsewhere too - (2013-09-12)
  [4152] Why are bus fares so high? - (2013-08-18)
  [4150] Melksham Regular Public Transport Map - as at August 2013 - (2013-08-09)
  [4149] Bus changes to Bath - good idea, but I despair at information available - (2013-08-08)
  [4143] Bus times - Melksham to Bath from 28th July 2013 - (2013-07-25)
  [4124] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge bus changes next month - (2013-06-26)
  [4123] New timetables from 28th July - bus routes 271 and 272 - (2013-06-24)
  [4113] Wiltshire and Melksham Transport - what is going on? - (2013-06-09)
  [4111] Zigzag bus - forward for the future, or decaying service? - (2013-06-09)
  [4108] The painful cost of local travel to Melksham - (2013-06-01)
  [4032] Easier public transport from Melksham to Bristol Airport - (2013-03-06)
  [4023] Melksham to Chippenham (Station) bus services - times and routes - (2013-03-01)
  [4022] A request for all of Melksham transport groups to work integrated - (2013-03-01)
  [3951] Christmas Bus Schedule for Melksham - First Bus - (2012-12-14)
  [3938] A long overdue meeting - a steeping stone towards coordinate transport user inputs - (2012-12-02)
  [3937] Agenda for Wiltshire Link Travel groups meeting, Saturday 1st December 2012 - (2012-11-27)
  [3929] Melksham Bus Issues - to be raised at First Bus Customer Panel - (2012-11-21)
  [3904] Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26)
  [3893] Public Transport across Wiltshire - a new map - (2012-10-13)
  [3879] Mixed mode travel - Information systems - (2012-10-03)
  [3877] Public Transport Services - from and to Melksham - (2012-10-01)
  [3866] Celebrate! Buses from Meksham to Bath - (2012-09-18)
  [3850] Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25)
  [3849] New bus times - Melksham to Bath - (2012-08-25)
  [3699] Bristol 50? Bristol 25? - (2012-04-17)
  [3631] Getting around Dublin by public transport - some observations - (2012-03-01)
  [3580] Melksham Area - buses, trains, cycles, and roads. Meeting, 17.1.2012 - (2012-01-15)
  [3579] Transport in Cambridgeshire - seen by an outside observer. What can Wiltshire learn? - (2012-01-15)
  [3564] I wish I was not a special case - (2011-12-29)
  [3523] When competition is not a good idea - Melksham Bus Absurdity - (2011-11-16)
  [3504] Coaches from Trowbridge and Melksham to London - (2011-11-01)
  [3487] Public transport - road and rail - (2011-10-19)
  [3486] How important is public transport to people in the Melksham area? - (2011-10-19)
  [3471] Vintage Bus Running Day in Warminster. An example of good bus practise. - (2011-10-09)
  [3404] Buses on the Cambridge Guided Busway - (2011-08-24)
  [3301] Using public transport - USA style - (2011-05-25)
  [3290] Changes (and no changes) at Melksham bus stops - (2011-05-15)
  [3194] Buses - what they cost and their future direction in the SW and in Wiltshire - (2011-03-06)
  [3126] Car Parking in Melksham - thoughts on the proposed scheme, and wider thoughts too - (2011-01-09)
  [2983] Strong arm tactics in the bus industry? Poor result for the customer! - (2010-10-03)
  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
  [2958] What do these road markings mean? Could Confusion Kill? - (2010-09-17)
  [2933] Bath - Melksham - Devizes buses from September - (2010-08-23)
  [2919] London to Calne, Corsham, Melksham, Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham by public Transport - (2010-08-13)
  [2903] Bath to Devizes bus via Melksham - changing again in September - (2010-08-04)
  [2857] Park and Ride at Batheaston - will it solve Wiltshires Ills? - (2010-07-06)
  [2791] Bath to Melksham buses - times - (2010-06-03)
  [2789] Melksham to London (Heathrow, and Central London) - (2010-06-02)
  [2771] Melksham to Calne by public transport - (2010-05-20)
  [2672] Dear Planners, please provide viable alternatives - (2010-03-11)
  [2662] Is Melksham public transport actually used? - (2010-03-05)
  [2533] Five guests, three groups, one car - (2009-12-11)
  [2522] Integrated public Transport - what could be done for Melksham - (2009-12-01)
  [2515] Why we have two buses an hour - but not a half hourly service - (2009-11-28)
  [2431] Moving busstop! - (2009-09-30)
  [2372] Public Transport from (and to) Melksham on Sundays - (2009-08-23)
  [2328] Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08)
  [2268] Westbury Bypass Refused - looking forward - (2009-07-04)
  [2083] Do you support a decent train service? Please sign up! - (2009-03-15)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [1777] The Rise and Rise of First Bus Fares - (2008-08-29)
  [1723] Bath - Melksham - Devizes. Bus route changes, new timetable - (2008-07-26)
  [1668] Talk on TransWilts train service to Green Party - (2008-06-07)
  [1567] Melksham - Swindon. Train v Bus v Car - (2008-03-07)
  [1560] HST Power Car TravelWatch SouthWest - (2008-03-01)
  [1511] Buses from Well House Manor, Melksham, to Bath - (2008-01-18)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1315] Two years of campaigning for a train service - (2007-08-22)
  [1254] Comparing bus stops - (2007-07-01)
  [1125] Train service - petititon reply - (2007-03-31)
  [1085] Lawrence Webb's Melksham Taxi service - (2007-02-18)
  [818] Heard, yes. Considered, no. The case for the train. - (2006-07-30)
  [764] Journey planning - Xephos v Transport Direct - (2006-06-16)
  [474] Vintage Bus Day - (2005-10-23)
  [459] Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-09)
  [187] a popular bus number - (2005-01-23)
  [119] PHP course. Come by train. - (2004-11-15)

Z407 - Option 24/7 - the way forward for Wiltshire buses
  [4694] Supported Bus Services in Wiltshire - analysis of written-in comments - (2016-06-11)
  [4693] Wiltshire supported bus service consultation, early 2016 - interim results published - (2016-06-09)
  [4691] Real life PHP application using our course training MVC example - (2016-06-05)
  [4669] Buses - how did we get into the situation we are in? - (2016-04-02)
  [4658] The end of competition on a bus route - the effects from then end of the 234 - (2016-03-02)
  [4657] Rumours of bus changes by First in Wiltshire - what we know and suspect - (2016-03-01)
  [4630] The story behind the bus cuts, and what they could mean - (2016-01-24)
  [4625] Where does Wiltshire bus subsidy money come from? - (2016-01-19)
  [4621] The power of scripting - (2016-01-12)


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