The performance of most bus services is critically affected by local authority policies on traffic management, parking and road network development as well as land use and the relative importance placed on the needs of public transport compared to other priorities.
Even in these times of austerity, it is possible for authorities working either separately or in partnership with operators and other stakeholders to deliver projects that can improve local bus services. Underpinning such projects might be funds, such as the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the Better Buses scheme in England, Transport Grant and Local Transport Services Grant in Wales and the Green Bus funds in both England and Scotland.
The 2015 Results
Winner, Gold Award
Improving Inter-urban Buses in Darlington - Darlington Borough Council
Darlington Borough Council (DBC), in partnership with Arriva, sought to deliver a step change in the quality of interurban buses operating in and out of the town. The aim was to exploit a growing commuter market and ensure that Darlington's economy could grow without incurring any negative impacts of traffic growth. DBC turned around routes which had long been in decline and which had a very poor public perception, achieving 12% growth in patronage in the last three years.
The judges acknowledged that Dralington Borough Council has played a huge role in engineering and securing funding for improvements in Darlington's bus services.
Winner, Silver Award
Castleford Bus Station - West Yorkshire Combined Authority
The construction of a new purpose built ú6m bus station has provided improved transport facilities, greater accessibility, encouraged bus use and supported regeneration and growth for Castleford and surrounding areas, working in partnership with Wakefield Council.
The judges considered this to be an example of local authorities investing well in infrastructure and of technical innovations in bus travel, transforming the dowdy image of a bus station.
Winner, Bronze Award, Partington Local Link service - Transport for Greater Manchester
Transport for Greater Manchester's (TfGM) Partington Local Link service shows how relatively small subsidies can greatly improve public transport services to help communities with specific needs at a local level and also contribute to targets of economic growth, employment and carbon emissions reduction. The link was introduced in 2007 and operated as a demand responsive minibus service. However, service design limited the scope of benefits offered to local residents. TfGM used LSTF funds to enhance the link and open up benefits such as serving shift workers starting early in the morning by extending the service to 5am. A number of partner agencies such as job centres, community groups and doctors surgeries were also involved.
The judges were impressed by significant passenger benefits within an employment area, improving employment prospects, as a result of looking at various possibilities rather than abandoning the link altogether.
Finalist, Bus Satisfaction Working Group - Centro
To combat the West Midlands metropolitan area being ranked amongst the worst parts of the UK in terms of passenger satisfaction according to the 2011 (then) Passenger Focus Bus Satisfaction Survey, Centro formed the Bus Satisfaction Working Group. Established in 2012, the group is comprised of an elected member from each of the district council's in the West Midlands, and directors from Centro and National Express West Midlands. The result is sustained improvements across the attributes measured by Transport Focus. Changes include 87% overall satisfaction in 2014 compared to 79% in 2012.
The judges were impressed by the strength and organisation of the working group over a considerable period of time.
Finalist, Improving Bus Quality in South East Wales - Monmouthshire County Council
In 2012, the Welsh Government decided to devolve bus funding (including BSOG) to councils. Together with bus operators, councils in South East Wales implemented a system to support services on a pence/km basis. During 2013/4 further proposals were developed to the grant dependent on quality standards, and since April 2015 operators are paid a varying rate depending on the quality level achieved. As well as implementing the payment mechanism in 2013/14 without a single complaint from operators, the project has also resulted in local authorities having a much better understanding of the quality standards achieved.
The judges welcomed measures to make the best of the resources available, reflecting the current climate of austerity.
Who could be nominated?
Local authorities that have a statutory responsibility for transport in their area. This could therefore include County Councils, Passenger Transport Executives, Unitary Authorities or Regional Transport Partnerships.
… and by whom?
We welcomed nominations from bus users, bus operators or local authorities themselves. Self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
Nominations were judged on the quality and content of submissions for this Award. The nominating person/company or the authority nominated needed to:
- Show the extent to which the authority actively promotes, facilitates and supports bus use or facilitates the operation of punctual and reliable bus services as part of their overall transportation policies
- Describe the project (which can include a specific initiative or an overall approach) being nominated, explaining how and in what way it helps to improve local bus services
- Set out how the project was developed and show the extent to which it involved partnership with bus operators, other stakeholders and bus service users and how each was involved in its development.
- Describe the results achieved by the project or initiative and demonstrate if it has achieved a shift in mode use, particularly attracting car users to use the bus, or has increased travel opportunities for previously isolated communities
- Set out how the project can be sustained in the future and how lessons learned from its implementation are being applied locally and might be applied in a wider area
- Demonstrate, where a project involves the provision of supported services, that the funds are being used effectively to encourage maximum bus use showing, where appropriate, how such expenditure complements operators’ commercial networks
- Show that plans have been made for adequate future maintenance where a project involves the provision of infrastructure.