Taking these points into account, the review group invites the Executive Member for the Environment's views and response to each of the following recommendations:
A That further consideration is given urgently to the recommendations of the 2007 scrutiny of the bus subsidy mechanism within the tendering process, given the additional work on this within the Environment Department
A: Work is ongoing to review the current subsidy criteria and examine options for a new subsidy mechanism and how this could be incorporated within the tendering process. This work will progress over the summer months and will be reported to Members in the autumn.
B That progress made on reviewing the bus subsidy mechanism is reported by the HCC Passenger Transport Group to the July 2008 Environment and Transportation Select Committee meeting
A: This work is ongoing and includes assessing best practice nationwide and testing new systems to examine the effect any new approach would have on the current subsidised network. It is intended to provide a report to Members in the autumn.
C That the HCC Passenger Transport Group report to the Environment and Transportation Select Committee on progress with increasing competition for bus tenders through smaller tender areas six months after the publication of this report
A: PTG has already begun this work. The Romsey and Waterside tendering areas that have traditionally been tendered as one area are currently going through the tender process as two separate networks. The aim is to break down the work into smaller areas which may help to attract new operators to bid for work.
D That the scope for Hampshire County Council to become a transport
operator in its own right, in order to stimulate competition is explored.
A: We see attractions in this approach and would like to investigate the subject fully. We also note that the approach has been followed by a small number of other authorities but not widely adopted. The need to comply with procurement requirements through the establishment of an arms-length company, transparency of full cost recovery and PSV Operator licensing requirements is seen as creating a significant area of risk and expenditure before bids can be made for any contracts. Those authorities with such units have found their operation to be controversial and pose a risk to reputation. The current review of Community and Demand-Responsive Transport will provide a relevant first step in the evaluation of this and other options for the delivery of services.
E That the HCC Passenger Transport Group gives consideration to how the introduction of a contract tender list, to incorporate information with regard to the accessibility of potential operators' vehicles, carbon emissions, vehicle size, financial viability, adherence to equalities issues, cleanliness and reliability etc. could support the improvement of bus services and thereby better value for money
A: Such a list could be compiled although it would require a significant staff resource to complete and keep up to date; furthermore some operators bid on the basis of offering specific types of vehicle which would only be acquired if the bid was successful. Invitations to tender often invite prices for different vehicle specifications such as accessible vehicles, low-emission engines or age-limited vehicles. Experience shows that when increased requirements are added, the resulting tender prices are higher. With a fixed budget, the Council then has the choice of providing a given level of service with older vehicles or a lower level of service with newer vehicles.
F That the outcome of the introduction of competitive tendering on the community transport sector, and further consideration of the legal basis for this competitive tendering approach, be reported by the HCC Passenger Transport Group to the July 2008 Environment and Transportation Select Committee meeting
A: The process of developing and introducing competitively tendered Community Transport contracts is well advanced. Until these contracts have been in operation for some time, it will not be possible to carry out a meaningful evaluation of how the contracts are performing and the overall impact on the sector. It would therefore be appropriate to update members during the latter half of 2009. The move from Service Level Agreement to competitive tendering followed extensive and detailed discussions with Chief Executive Legal Services.
G That HCC Passenger Transport Group work with the Office of National Statistics, the Local Government Association, and the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers to investigate, and report on, how other county councils arrive at levels of bus subsidy
A: It would be possible to carry this work out, but a staff resource needs to be identified to do so. Unless additional funding is allocated for this task, other work would need to be dropped or delayed.
H That consideration be given to the most effective means for consulting Parishes and Districts at times of alterations to services and financial cutbacks, regarding value for money of routes to be retained, substituted or discontinued, and suitable time, for example at least a month, be allowed for responding
A: Parish and District Councils are consulted in advance of area re-tendering and at times of financial cutbacks. A number of district councils have subsequently agreed to fund bus services that were due to be withdrawn as a result of HCC budget pressures, e.g. Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Havant and Rushmoor. In the case of operator de-registrations we can face a time limit of 56 days, and in the case of tenders received a limit of 60 days, within which options have to be developed and alternatives evaluated before proposals can be presented. In those circumstances it is not always possible to allow a period of a month for consultation, however we seek to consult as effectively as possible.
I That the HCC demand responsive Call and Go and CANGO bus schemes are reviewed to ensure their continuing ability to provide value for money transport, and contribution to county wide integrated transport arrangements
A: A thorough review of the County Council's role in the provision of Community and Demand-Responsive transport services has been instigated and is due to take place from July to December 2008.
J That the HCC Passenger Transport Group reviews the range of stakeholders eg. disability forums, youth forums, NHS organisations etc. linked to the Area Review process to ensure that as many groups, as wish to, have the chance to contribute to the process of service monitoring and review
A: The Area Review process has resulted in better engagement with many stakeholders and service users. This process has been welcomed by stakeholders and will be reviewed to investigate further ways to improve how we engage with the community and representative organisations.
K That the HCC Passenger Transport Group -
(i) engages Hampshire PCT to consider how to align transport commissioning to meet healthcare travel needs across the county
A: The need to engage with the PCT is recognised in the context of the complex commissioning arrangements for transport within the health sector. Current engagement with health takes place through some of the rural transport pilots and the relationship with health will be included in the review of Community Transport.
(ii) evaluates the Area Review process to ensure that it is fit for purpose
A: The Area Review process feeds through to the local bus service re-tendering programme which operates on a four year cycle. Re-tendering based upon the first series of Area Reviews will be completed at the end of 2009 which will provide an opportunity to evaluate outcomes and reappraise the process.
(iii) establishes a timeline for drawing countywide, strategic transport conclusions from the district Area Reviews
A: This is a piece of work that could be carried out, although it is unclear how a countywide strategic view of transport provision may conflict with meeting transport needs in local areas. Again, a significant staff resource would be required to deliver this project which and is currently unresourced.
L That, on completion of a pilot, the HCC Passenger Transport Group and partners ensure that the findings of that pilot are shared with Parish and Town Councils with a view to agreeing subsequent courses of action
A: The rural transport pilots are part of a national demonstration project which includes a requirement to share results with interested parties. This will include parish and town councils some of which are integral to the pilots.
M That Transport Forums, or their equivalent, be set up in those areas of Hampshire not covered by existing Forums, so that this method of identifying local need can be strengthened to cover all parts of the county
A: This would be a significant commitment to an ongoing process. It would be possible to introduce new forums, and a forum for the Winchester area has recently been established so that six out of eleven districts are now covered, but a long term staff resource and budget would need to be allocated to extend this countywide. Unless additional funding and staff are allocated to this task, other work would need to be dropped.
N That Transport Forums, or their equivalent, are encouraged to review how they can strengthen the role they play in identifying transport needs and contributing to solutions
A: We are aware that the transport forums need to react as legislation and service provision levels change. PTG is embarking on a process of working with the forums to review the content and format of the current forums to ensure that they best meet the needs of the community.
O That the HCC Passenger Transport Group works with partners, through the LSPs, to ensure that there is a clear description of the various transport groups in each locality to avoid duplication, together with a note of their respective roles and function and contact details, so that the public, as well as those working in the transport sector, understand how they can best influence decision making in their area
A: This represents a significant initial piece of work and a significant amount of ongoing staff resource to make sure that any information provided is up to date. A number of district councils are also grappling with this idea and we will work with them to better disseminate information. However, any resource spent on this would be new and therefore requires additional funding and staff. Any information provided to the public would need to be professionally produced thereby incurring additional printing and setup costs.
P That the HCC Passenger Transport Group reviews the progress of the LTP Accessibility Strategy with a view to updating it, where appropriate
A: A new approach to accessibility has been taken up through the Local Area Agreement (LAA) where a local priority for accessibility has been established. The County Council is engaging with district councils and other partners in identifying particular problem areas within each district and is intending to work with local partners and communities on ways of delivering improvements. The programme is expected to run through 2009 with results able to inform future policy development.
Q That the HCC Passenger Transport Group and the rail industry should work together to develop station travel plans, with particular attention to aligning bus and rail timetables, integrating cycling, walking and public transport modes of travel, addressing the issue of bus links to rail stations, and the use of cycles on trains at peak hours
A: The County Council works with train operators and Network Rail to improve facilities for passengers at rail stations. These include aids to interchange between modes, cycle parking, information displays, CCTV, new bus stops and shelters at stations and passenger waiting shelters on platforms. Community Rail Partnerships are also being taken forward in the New Forest and on the Chandler's Ford line, which are helping secure community involvement in the operation of stations and services.
Station travel plans are being developed through the Town Access Plans programme as part of the Local Transport Plan. Three stations have been submitted to ATOC, the Association of Train Operating Companies, as bids for Station Travel Plan pilots and have been successful. The stations concerned are - Romsey, Chandler's Ford and Eastleigh.
It is notoriously difficult to align bus and rail times at rail stations as there are so many conflicting variables to take into account, not least that bus schedules have to serve competing timetable requirements such as work and school start and finish times. The County Council is a statutory consultee on rail timetables and already puts forward the case for better integration wherever possible, and has achieved some success in this respect, but with the majority of bus services provided commercially and the rail timetables being specified by DfT, the County Council's level of influence is limited.
A piece of work could be undertaken to identify opportunities for better alignment between rail and bus, but would need significant resource to carry out and no guarantee could be made that commercial operators would alter their timetables according to our recommendations or that contracted services could be revised without additional cost depending on existing schedule constraints. Historically, only a small proportion of bus users transfer to and from rail.
A network of bus-links has been developed for Fleet station and these are currently being promoted by a publicity campaign.
The County Council has funded secure bicycle parking at stations and has seen some success with regard to increased provision for cycles on peak time trains, subject to the provision of suitable rolling stock.
R That the HCC Passenger Transport Group, together with partners, explore the potential for the use of quality contracts as this becomes possible under new Transport legislation
A; The Local Transport Bill seeks to simplify the application of Quality Contracts through which a local transport authority can seek the suspension of the deregulated bus market in a chosen area and let contracts for all the bus services in that area. The process envisaged still requires meeting a number of tests and gaining approval from a board headed by a Traffic Commissioner with the possibility of a public inquiry and appeal to the Transport Tribunal and the Court of appeal. For this reason it would be seen as a last resort only when partnership working had failed to deliver the desired objectives.
S That the HCC Passenger Transport Group, together with community and neighbourhood transport providers, review the current approach to marketing community and demand responsive transport to make it more attractive to new users
A: A thorough review of role of the County Council in the provision of Community and Demand-Responsive Transport services has been instigated and is due to take place from July to December 2008. Branding and marketing/publicity will be explored as part of this study.
T In order to plan for the future, that the HCC Passenger Transport Group uses its influence within local Passenger Transport Forums, or their equivalents, to lead a partnership approach to the identification of increased local knowledge about local priority groups of people at greatest risk of social exclusion
A: We are aware of the role which the local transport forums can play in collating, identifying and highlighting local needs; particularly among priority groups. The contribution which the forums can make to this process will be increasingly important, given the expected future pressure on resources and the need to make best use of these. We are currently starting a process of engaging with stakeholders to explore how we can develop this partnership further.
U That the HCC Passenger Transport Group work with District Councils, and the private sector, where appropriate, to ensure that -
(i) there is a county wide approach to ensuring that the maximum number of bus shelters are in place
A: A countywide approach to the provision and maintenance of bus shelters will be difficult to achieve as there are a significant number of agencies involved in their provision - district councils, advertising companies (through agreements with districts), parish and town councils. The County Council has had success through working in partnership with District, Town and Parish Councils on a local basis through Quality Bus Partnerships to fund bus shelters where ongoing maintenance agreements can be secured. It would be a significant piece of work to try to implement a countywide approach, which would also require significant ongoing staff and financial resource.
(ii) real time bus travel information and mobile phone technology is available in as many places as possible
A: This is being taken forward by the ITS group and PTG as part of the development of Quality Bus Partnerships. A roll-out programme is in place and new services will be added as funding permits. The current introduction of txt4times - the provision of bus timetable information by text message to mobile phone - will allow real time information to be available for any stop in an area where real time information is available and scheduled information for any stop in Hampshire.
(iii) bus and train timetable information is made available to the public as widely as possible
A: The County Council's PT Information Strategy, which was published as part of the Local Transport Plan, aims to develop and improve the ways in which we disseminate public transport information. A particular growth area is Traveline, and a programme to roll out new initiatives is underway (text messaging of real time bus information, web and telephone based journey planning, etc.). In addition travel enquiry terminals known as i-plus kiosks are being introduced in a number of areas using internet technology to complement door to door distribution of printed material and high quality bus stop poles with integrated information displays.
(iv) through ticketing is in place in as many areas as possible
A: This is heavily reliant on the public transport operators to implement and often meets with resistance from the industry. A notable success is the ground-breaking Solent Travelcard, with plans in place to extend this to include rail travel. A Blackwater Valley Travelcard is under development. Inevitably, changes will need to be implemented by the industry, although Transport for South Hampshire will explore new ways of achieving integrated ticketing. Again, this would need significant resource to develop. In a number of areas PlusBUS allows rail passengers to include bus travel when purchasing their rail ticket.
V That Hampshire County Council gives consideration to the means to -
(i) jointly promote, with voluntary and community sector transport providers, the recruitment and training of volunteers.
A: Hampshire County Council developed the nationally adopted MiDAS training scheme and provides a range of training and recruitment resources. The current review of Community Transport will look at the support facilities offered by the Community Transport team and how these might be developed and promoted.
(ii) the measures or support that can be provided to such groups to ensure that their core task is not hampered by them engaging in excessive administrative and support activities, such as training, common recruitment campaigns, shared facilities group insurance and procurement schemes
A: Hampshire County Council provides common back office systems and a range of other resources for schemes. The current review of Community Transport will examine how these might be developed and promoted.
W That the HCC Passenger Transport Group and Children's Services (Education) -
(i) consider how changes to school opening hours might be piloted in one area involving better use of conventional bus, and other non car modes of transport
A: Such a scheme was developed in recent years but the potential for cost savings on School Transport were not realised as the school hours did not change. Local management of schools means that curriculum requirements take priority and transport costs do not impact on the school budget. The desire for feeder schools to share the same school day as secondary schools to suit parents with children at both can work against the wish to move school times apart to maximise vehicle utilisation. Further work to examine how schools could be successfully engaged could be undertaken if resources were made available.
(ii) work to ensure the prompt adoption of school travel plans
A: An established School Travel Planning Team operates within the Highways and Transport Policy Group of the Environment Department and works closely with schools, governors and parents for the prompt adoption of school travel plans.