Public transport in rural Cambridgeshire should be easy to use and part of every day life, says a report

PUBLISHED: 15:25 23 January 2019

Public transport needs to be easy and accessible for all, according to a new report to be discussed by the Combined Authority.

Public transport needs to be easy and accessible for all, according to a new report to be discussed by the Combined Authority.

Archant

People should have a public transport system that is “part of everyday living … a utility they use without stopping to think about it,” says a report presented to Mayor James Palmer.

People should have a public transport system that is “part of everyday living … a utility they use without stopping to think about it,” says a report presented to Mayor James Palmer.

His £150,000 review into future public transport provision will be presented to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) at the end of the month.

Mayor Palmer has stepped in to help save some services for the short term but “sticking plasters are not sustainable.

“It is time to stop tinkering at the ends and re-imagine what bus services should look like for the 21st century”.

The report was compiled by specialists SYSTRA Ltd who were commissioned last May to undertake a strategic review of bus service provision within the CAPCA area.

“The model we have in mind is that of mobile phone usage, which is now simply taken for granted as part of most people’s lives,” says the report.

In the same way that mobile phone users have no need to understand the technology of how phones work “the objective should be to ensure that public transport users have the same ease and flexibility of use”.

The report offers a range of options that are aimed at making it easier for people to get to jobs, schools, colleges, shopping centres and leisure activities. Buses operating at least six days a week is considered vital.

Discounts for apprentices, job seekers and the over 60s are among ideas to encourage more people to hop on public transport.

The report envisages better leadership and joined up thinking between public and private sector to connect timetables as the key to success.

Transport will involve multiple providers including bus operators, community transport, train companies, cycle hire providers, community car clubs, taxi operators and the CAM motorcycle franchisee so that public transport is marketed as a 21st Century utility.

Mayor Palmer said: “For decades bus services have lacked significant national, regional or local strategic leadership and vision.

“As a result, we have a bus service that is often not seen as an attractive option, is frequently in decline in rural or less prosperous areas, does not link key employment areas, and is not properly integrated with other modes of transport.

“This has major social impacts and harms our prosperity.”

He said it was clear the vast majority of people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough share his appetite for change.

“But we cannot deliver change, I believe, without fully exploring the case for new ways of delivering bus services, like franchising and enhanced partnerships,” he said.

“We will be taking the steps needed to ensure the option we take gives us the fullest ability to reform our bus network. The business case would provide us with the evidence needed to do so.

“The public sector cannot do this alone. I am extending the offer to bus operators to work with us and share the vision and ambition needed to make the bus network in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough a model for others to follow.

“I back recommendation in the report to work with our partners, including bus operators and councils, through a new taskforce, to see real change delivered quickly, so people can start to see improved services in the short term.”

The options available for radical reform include franchising, enhanced partnerships, advanced quality partnership schemes and special offer ticketing schemes.

To deliver early-stage improvements, the report will recommend to CAPCA the setting up of a cross-organisational bus reform group. This taskforce would involve Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, and CAPCA.

The brief, business case, and necessary audit and consultation could be completed by early 2021, which would set a new precedent nationally for speed of delivery.

Although CAPCA has made isolated interventions to keep services running, Mayor Palmer has said that this is not a sustainable way forward. The bus reform taskforce, if approved, would make recommendations about subsidies for services in due course.

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