Thursday, 18 February 2016

County Council Working Group to Consider BUG Proposals

Service 89:  Can it be saved?
Lancashire County Council has set up a Cabinet Working Group on Buses to consider how best to spend £1M of capital funding and £2M per annum revenue funding that is being made available for public transport following the decision to withdraw all bus services that currently run under contract to the council.

Initial thinking was that this money would be best spent on providing minibuses to parish councils and/or community groups so that they could run their own services, using volunteer drivers and other staff. The Bus Users' Group felt that this was not the most cost-effective means of spending the money and in a letter to the council's cabinet member for transport said that it should instead be spent on keeping bus services running to those areas that would be hardest hit.

The Cabinet Working Party meets tomorrow (Friday, 19th Febraury) and we have received an indication that it is now thinking along the same lines as the BUG, with the bulk of available funding likely to spent on conventional bus services.

County Councillor Gina Dowding, who is a BUG member and also sits on the Cabinet Working Group says she is "hopeful" that most daytime bus services can be retained.  The BUG has asked that daytime services be continued on the following routes, which were threatened with total withdrawal:

33  Morecambe - Bare Circular
51  Silverdale - Carnforth - Lancaster
81A  Lancaster - Gressingham - Kirkby Lonsdale
89  Lancaster - Knott End.

Detailed timetables for these services have been submitted to the Working Group and we hope that we will be successful in getting them, or something similar, accepted.

There is no indication that any evening or Sunday services will be put back.  We have asked that evening and Sunday services be reinstated on service 81B between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale (evenings) or Hornby (Sundays).  It appears less likely that this proposal will be accepted, but we have asked that at least some early evening (up to around 1900hrs) journeys can be provided as far as Hornby.

We will announce the outcome of the Working Group's deliberations as soon as we are made aware of them ourselves.


Mike Blackstone said...

For those services that have been notified to the Traffic Commissioners for withdrawal as from 2nd April, as in last issue of Notices and Proceedings, this would mean,they would have to go out to tender once more. Therefore there could be changes of operators.

Jim said...

County could enter into deminimis agreements with existing operators at least in the short term. There probably wouldn't be time to go through the full tendering process even if these proposals go through.

mrboots2u said...

hi - what's the timescales for feedback on these proposals . I'm will be forced to relocate from brookhouse if all evening see if all evening services are cut past 5.30 as I would have no means of returning from work

Jim said...

The BUG is still pressing the council to run at least some buses after 1730. What time bus do you need for work?

mrboots2u said...

I currently catch the 5.45 bit 6.00 would be fine if it helped other people

Anonymous said...

Could we not set up a District Community Benefit Society and then bid for the revenue funding, and then contract out to private providers, who are now likely to have excess capacity? A bit like Dales Buses?
As a Lancaster University Student, who lives in Caton, where out lectures end at 18:00, I'm now either going to have to move into Student Acomm. or find skip our weekly 17:00-18:00 seminar, which is not good at all. It also means that I'm isolated from the number of clubs, and societies events that tend to occur during evenings and weekends. I appreciate
the need to reduce costs, but I think a limited Lune Valley Ranger Service (e.g: even 1 bus on the route - to Hornby - at 18:30 would be far more preferable), and help us who only finish education/work at 17:30 (a closing time for most 'modern' work places or in my case 18:00 at Lancaster University).

Out of curiosity, has Stagecoach revealed the level of funding required to maintain a bare bones (e.g: 2 evening depatures) shorten evening service? Or, does anyone have a rough idea of how much this would be?

Anonymous said...

Hello MrBoots2U

I presume your currently using a Stagecoach Megarider +, but would you be willing to pay a supplement to this, for a limited evening service out to Brookhouse? E.G: £25 per month? For instance, if this service was run by a private contractor or external provider?

Jim said...

Thanks for your contributions to the debate so far. We have asked the county council and Stagecoach to consider running some early evening buses from Lancaster as far as Hornby. Obviously we would like to see a full evening service, but that would require a substantial subsidy that the county council can't afford.

If evening and/or Sunday services are to continue then an alternative source of funding will have to be found. One possible source is Parish Councils, but they have rather limited budgets at present and it would need all the parishes on the route to pull together. Another possibility is a not-for-profit organisation such as the Community Interest Company that organises the Dales Bus Summer Sunday network. This does very much as you suggest, by seeking out grants and voluntary contributions. In Cumbria there is a voluntary group of local people who support their commercial bus service by fundraising events. If there evidence of genuine local interest in progressing this matter then our group would be happy to advise and support.

On the question of cost, this could only be established by asking Stagecoach and other bus companies to quote against a specific level of service, but as a guideline the present evening (after 1800) and Sunday service costs the council £83,000 per year, with Stagecoach also keeping the income from fares.

Anonymous said...

Are any smaller bus companies willing to take on some of the axed routes on a commerical basis? in my experience, they need less of a profit margin to run routes compared to big companies such as Stagecoach.

Jim said...

We believe the county council has been asking operators if they are interested in this but with little success. Stagecoach however has taken on some services elsewhere in Lancashire.

Mike Blackstone said...

This may be of interest as it mentions the withdrawal of service 89 to Knott End.

mrboots2u said...

HI any timescale for the working group to feedbakc as we are now less than 4 weeks away from the demolition of service in the evening ( 80-81 route )

Lancaster Bus Users Group said...

We ar sorry we haven't been able to post as much as we'd hoped recently, however we now understand that the County Council's Working Group meets again on 8th March. We hope that after that time we'll have more news.