The performance of most bus services is critically affected by local highway authorities' policies on traffic management, parking and road network development.
Enlightened local authorities encourage use of public transport, provide levels of support for subsidised bus services and concessionary travel beyond statutory minimum levels, invest in bus service infrastructure and promote public transport.
This Award was won by the authority who, in the opinion of the judges:
- was prepared to implement bus priorities to improve bus service reliability
- ensures that key bus routes are kept clear of un-controlled parking, servicing and other obstructions
- has parking management and pricing policies that help maintain the competitiveness of buses with cars.
Winner: Kent County Council
Kent's major bus operators, Arriva and Stagecoach, have recognised that Kent County Council is an enlightened authority that has done its utmost to promote pro-bus and pro-public transport policies and both have supported the County's nomination.
There has been a 15% bus patronage growth across Kent in the last 5 years as a result of the County Council actively working with bus operators on building Quality Bus Partnerships, bids for external funding, operator investment in new vehicles and programmes of bus priority and bus stop improvement. The County Council is actively seeking to use the powers of the Traffic Management Act to reduce congestion and help buses move more freely at peak times.
Although Fastrack is the flagship scheme for Kent County Council, the county is involved in many other initiatives. It has a highly proactive approach to maintaining and developing the public transport network in partnership with the major bus operators. Based on the DfT's formal assessment of Kent's Local Transport Plan, it achieved an 'Excellent' rating and has now been invited by the DfT to join its national Centre of Excellence programme. Kent has been proactive in bus projects, as examples it has four Quality Bus Partnership initiatives and has been very successful in gaining funding for Kickstart projects, of which there are also four in the county, all of which are on track to become commercial at the end of their three years.
Runner Up: South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive
South Yorkshire PTE has a clear bus strategy designed to reverse the decline in bus patronage in the region over the last 20 years. SYPTE has an excellent track record in building and operating transport interchanges, running Park-and-Ride facilities, supporting non-commercial bus services, providing attractive ticketing schemes, and maintaining travel advice and information. The PTE also encourages bus use through proactive marketing campaigns.
A £5m 5-year Voluntary Partnership with Sheffield City Council and operators First and Stagecoach provides better access and journey time reliability for buses. South Yorkshire has recently signed England's first Statutory Quality Partnership Scheme, scheduled to be fully implemented in September to coincide with the completion of Sheffield's Inner Relief Road. More than 100 buses will be involved in the scheme and their upgrading will also address air quality issues in the City centre.
City & County of Swansea
In recent years Swansea has made substantial progress in improving bus transport with a 22% increase in Park and Ride patronage in the past year, the awarding of a Charter Mark for the Park and Ride service, the opening of a third Park and Ride site in 2006, significant patronage increases on the new Gower and Lliw Link Services, implementation of Stage 1 of the Swansea Metro project and a Punctuality Improvement Partnership.
Much attention is being given to the Swansea Metro 'ftr' project, but meanwhile the Gower Explorer and Lilw Link networks are seen as fine examples of their type of operation, showing patronage growth this year of 18.3% and 50.1% respectively.
In 2005, the Council entered into a Punctuality Improvement Partnership with main operator First, developing a shared approach to improving bus reliability. Much work has still to be done but the initiatives already undertaken are commendable and the judges look forward to hearing of further progress with Swansea's schemes including the Swansea Metro project.