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

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Wiltshire supported bus service consultation, early 2016 - interim results published

Results of Wiltshire Council's Public Consultation of Supported Bus Services have been published in papers for next week's Wiltshire Cabinet meeting on the Council's web site. I have placed a mirror copy on the Option 24/7 web site, with easy links via http://option247.uk/links.html.

This is the (probably) the first of a number of analyses of the new data from the Council - there's a great deal more in there and coming from discussions too which is helping us learn and progress things.

On each of six ways of cutting suggested by the Council, respondents were asked two questions:
a) Given the level of subsidy and the numbers who use this service would you support the Council looking at this area to find savings?
b) If the Council was to reduce the subsidy for [these services] how would this personally affect you?

Here is a summary of the answers as published by Wilts Council on 7th June (mirror [here] ). Their presentation and graphics are [here] and my thoughts / comments follow.

Option 1 Withdraw funding for all supported evening services
1 Yes: 6016 (56.6%) No: 4609 (43.4%) Amount: £639,000
5409 (50.3%) It wouldn't affect me at all, as I rarely, if ever use such a service
3189 (29.6%) I might be affected but could probably make alternative arrangements
1335 (12.4%) I would be affected by this quite a lot
827 (7.7%) This would have a big impact on me personally

Option 2 Withdraw funding for all supported Sunday services
2 Yes: 6725 (63.0%) No: 3955 (37.0%) Amount: £165,000
5525 (51.6%) It wouldn't affect me at all, as I rarely, if ever use such a service
3405 (31.8%) I might be affected but could probably make alternative arrangements
1169 (10.9%) I would be affected by this quite a lot
615 (5.7%) This would have a big impact on me personally

Option 3 Reduce the hourly services Mon-Fri to a two hourly service on the strategic bus network
3 Yes: 5186 (48.2%) No: 5565 (51.8%) Amount: £430,000
3479 (32.2%) It wouldn't affect me at all, as I rarely, if ever use such a service
3381 (31.3%) I might be affected but could probably make alternative arrangements
2474 (22.9%) I would be affected by this quite a lot
1469 (13.6%) This would have a big impact on me personally

Option 4 Reduce rural bus services to 2-3 buses a day on regular routes and withdraw most of the infrequent services except those that are the only service to a group of villages.
4 Yes: 4006 (37.5%) No: 6679 (62.5%) Amount: £1,190,000
3495 (32.5%) It wouldn't affect me at all, as I rarely, if ever use such a service
3096 (28.8%) I might be affected but could probably make alternative arrangements
2621 (24.4%) I would be affected by this quite a lot
1546 (14.4%) This would have a big impact on me personally

Option 5 Reduce town bus services to 2-3 buses a day.
5 Yes: 5306 (51.0%) No: 5098 (49.0%) Amount: £460,000
4913 (46.4%) It wouldn't affect me at all, as I rarely, if ever use such a service
2584 (24.4%) I might be affected but could probably make alternative arrangements
1977 (18.7%) I would be affected by this quite a lot
1109 (10.5%) This would have a big impact on me personally

Option 6 Withdraw all funding for all Council subsidised services
6 Yes: 2388 (22.4%) No: 8260 (77.6%) Amount: £5,100,000
1558 (14.5%) It wouldn't affect me at all, as I rarely, if ever use such a service
2717 (25.2%) I might be affected but could probably make alternative arrangements
3588 (33.3%) I would be affected by this quite a lot
2899 (26.9%) This would have a big impact on me personally

Comments and analysis

a) If you add the savings that would be made by implementing options 1 to 5 inclusive, it comes to £2.884 million which is only slightly more than the £2.6 million savings needed. So whatever the responses show, nearly all the cuts suggested would have to be made to meet the financial goal - only the Sunday buses could be saved.

b) We are asked "Given the level of subsidy and the numbers who use this service would you support the Council looking at this area to find savings?". I would support the Council in looking at all areas to find savings (it's just being sensible and prudent to do so) but I would NOT support them if they simply cut the funding without taking a systemic and network wide look at what's best provision for the future and giving due weight to that look.

c) The question about effect was on repondents personally. And the results tell us that fewer people would be effected by the Sunday and evening cuts than by other cuts. Which is exactly what you would expect because there are fewer such services, and they cost less to support. Statistically, a reasonable way to make the comparison is by looking at the support cost per person affected "quite a lot" or with a "big impact".
Option 1 - evening buses - £295.56 per respondent seriously affected
Option 2 - Sunday buses - £92.49 per respondent seriously affected
Option 3 - strategic network reduction - £109.05 per respondent seriously affected
Option 4 - rural buses reduction - £285.58 per respondent seriously affected
Option 5 - town buses reduction - £149.06 per respondent seriously affected
Bearing in mind that only 1 in 40 of Wiltshire residents answered the consultation (but 11,000 is a darned good figure), we cannot take the figure per respondent as a figure per resident, but it does let us make a comparison on a more level playing field.

d) We have not seen published any correlation between the answer on the various options and passenger journey frequency and reason - data which was gathered in question 7. We do not, therefore, yet have the ability to provide evidence based comparisons of the options based on cost per journey, nor based on economic impact. These are the factors which the Cabinet should be considering should they reject other options (such as partnerships or franchising) which may become available in the Bus Service Bill - now through its second reading and into committee stage.

e) The majority of bus journeys are round trips, and in the case of options 2 through 5 both outbound and return trips are covered. In the case of option 1, most support is for the return journey only and a reduction of this support would have a proportionally greater effect on the commercial daytime services on the route in question, reducing profit / service levels during the day and perhaps pushing certain runs out of the commercial category.

f) It should be noted that the consultation was directly promoted on weekday daytime buses that are threatened with their loss of support, and that daytime events on weekdays were held at a number of bus hubs, where people were encouraged to complete survey forms. There was little promotion of the consultation (if any?) on evening and Sunday services, and this has probably lead to a lower response weight - so lower appearance in the totals - of people who would be seriously affected by Sunday and weekend service losses.

Interim Conclusions:

1. Bus support cuts which result in a proportionate cut to those services supported will have a big (negative) impact on a lot of people.

2. Sunday bus service support in Wiltshire is excellent value

3. Evening bus service support in Wiltshire is just as good value as rural bus service support, but cutting evening support would have a significant effect on daytime services on the same route which are currently unsupported.

4. There is no study or discussion within the consultation options / resulting reports of innovative options such as running alternate strategic service buses (commercial or supported) via rural routes or town residential areas to continue service to those areas but at far lower cost than at present.

5. The Council has gathered data which could be correlated to look at the cost / value per journey. This correlation may have already been done, but I haven't seen it published, nor has the raw data been published (yet?) in sufficient detail for us to do the correlation and learn the lessons that the data can provide

Good work so far from the Council. Further analysis needed. No decision from the Cabinet meeting on 14th June I understand (thank goodness - this is just to inform them). And the Council, the bus operators, and technical passenger stakeholder groups can then work together to evaluate all the options, based on the relative importance of various factors in the outcome (see our simulator [here] ) for an affordable service that's best fit for purpose in 2018 and beyond.
(written 2016-06-09, updated 2016-06-15)

 
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
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)
  [4694] Supported Bus Services in Wiltshire - analysis of written-in comments - (2016-06-11)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4691] Real life PHP application using our course training MVC example - (2016-06-05)
  [4690] Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment - (2016-05-30)
  [4669] Buses - how did we get into the situation we are in? - (2016-04-02)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [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)
  [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)
  [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)
  [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)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4621] The power of scripting - (2016-01-12)
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)


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