TransWilts CRP, CIC and Melksham RUG
Public and sustainable transport in Wiltshire

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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
Z407 - Option 24/7 - the way forward for Wiltshire buses
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)
  [4621] The power of scripting - (2016-01-12)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4625] Where does Wiltshire bus subsidy money come from? - (2016-01-19)
  [4630] The story behind the bus cuts, and what they could mean - (2016-01-24)
  [4631] What would the Wiltshire Council bus cuts mean for Melksham? - (2016-01-25)
  [4636] Rail user groups worried about what is happening on the buses - (2016-01-31)
  [4648] Why is bus funding a much hotter topic than a new set of traffic lights? - (2016-02-16)
  [4654] Getting to the Royal United Hospital - the Hopper and the alternatives - (2016-02-24)
  [4657] Rumours of bus changes by First in Wiltshire - what we know and suspect - (2016-03-01)
  [4658] The end of competition on a bus route - the effects from then end of the 234 - (2016-03-02)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4669] Buses - how did we get into the situation we are in? - (2016-04-02)
  [4691] Real life PHP application using our course training MVC example - (2016-06-05)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4693] Wiltshire supported bus service consultation, early 2016 - interim results published - (2016-06-09)
  [4694] Supported Bus Services in Wiltshire - analysis of written-in comments - (2016-06-11)
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)

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


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Some other Articles
Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment
Training Course schedule for summer and autumn 2016
Melksham Station - as at May 2016 - Part 5 (services and prices)
Melksham Station - as at May 2016 - Part 4
Melksham Station - as at May 2016 - Part 3
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