The Bus Users' Group is pleased to announce that some progress appears to be being made on improving the bus service to east Lancaster after the County Council has sat on available funding for almost five years. Now, with additional section 106 money coming from another development it looks, at last, as if something might actually happen. For the full story read on:
Bus service 18 links Lancaster City Centre with Moorlands, Williamson Park, Lancaster Leisure Park, Lancaster Farms Prison and Ridge as well as the Standen Park housing development on the former Moor Hospital site.
In 2012, Lancaster City Council received £500,000 funding from the developers of Standen Park under section 106 of the Town and County Planning Act 1991 to improve the bus service to the development and for improved provision for cyclists and pedestrians. The objective of such funding is to provide alternatives to car use for residents of the new homes and therefore to mitigate the environmental effect of the development.
At the time, service 18 was subsidised by Lancashire County Council and operated once an hour during daytime on Mondays to Saturdays. The section 106 money would have allowed the frequency of the service to be at least doubled and for evening and Sunday journeys to be added. However, despite the receipt of the money no action was taken. In 2014, the service operator, Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire decided to run this and other city services on a commercial basis, thereby ending the County Council's involvement.
Unfortunately, service 18 did not prove to be a commercial success for Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire and in June 2015 it was reduced to four journeys a day. Again, despite a request from the Bus Users' Group, the County Council refused to take any action to replace the withdrawn journeys, despite the £500,000 being still available, Instead, it announced that the bulk of the funding would be spent on an improvement to the junction of Wyresdale Road / Quernmore Road / East Road and Moor Gate, despite this not being the purpose for which the money was provided. This work was undertaken over the summer of 2016 and is now complete although the County has refused to divulge the cost and therefore identify how much money may be left for the bus service.
In the meantime another housing development - the Miller Homes site at Lancaster Leisure Park - has come on stream with additional section 106 money being made available to enhance the number 18.
In order to prevent further delays, the Bus Users' Group informed the County Council's Public Transport Team and asked them to take action internally to secure this new money and apply it for the purpose for which it is intended.
It now appears that County has been speaking to at least one local operator and is "awaiting feedback on options" to improve the service. This is the first sign that any action is being taken by LCC almost five years after the initial funding became available. Whilst we accept that some time will have to be taken to ensure that the new money is spent wisely we will continue to press the council to bring about an early improvement to the service.
The Bus Users' Group has also been invited to attend a meeting at County Hall in Preston with the Council's Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport and County Councillors to discus the original section 106 funding and, hopefully, to ensure that whatever is left of it is now allocated to its intended purpose.