Agenda item

Passenger Transport Update.


The Committee considered a presentation provided by the Director of Environment and Transport which provided an update on funding arrangement for public transport services in Leicestershire, the work undertaken to refresh the Passenger Transport Policy and Strategy (PTPS) to support compliance with national policy, and to seek the Committees views on these and related work being undertaken prior to consideration by the Cabinet at its meeting in December.  A copy of the slides marked ‘Agenda Item 10’ is filed with these minutes.


Arising from discussion, the following points arose:

i)               Members welcomed the presentation and the additional grant funding for buses to be provided by the Department for Transport (DfT).  Members queried the structure of the funding and how this could be allocated. It was noted that the first tranche of £4.05m would be revenue funding but that it was expected the multi years settlement in future years, a proportion of which was expected to be capital.

ii)             A Member questioned how the funds might be used to support local commercial bus operators. It was noted that there were conditions attached to the funding and it was not intended to simply fund the continuation of existing services. Some additionalities would need to be demonstrated and where money was transported to commercial operators by way of a subsidy, which was permitted if it could be shown to be for the public benefit, then strict legal and procurement processes would need to be followed.

iii)            Whilst there continued to be drop in the usage of bus services since the Covid 19 pandemic it was noted that some routes had recovered, for example those that traditionally had large patronage (usually student) numbers, whilst others had not and might never do so. Members noted that service recovery was dependent on who was using the bus routes. Around 80% of routes had recovered but concessionary travel was much lower which meant those areas more reliant on such travel was continuing to struggle.

iv)            Members raised concerns regarding engagement by bus companies in recent times and asked how this might be improved under the new Strategy to provide for a more partnership approach. A Member commented that whilst bus companies were operating a commercial service it needed to be acknowledged that this was also a public service and that some engagement when changes were being made or routes ended would be beneficial for residents. It was suggested that the injection of additional funds and the structure around how this could be spent would act as a catalyst for improving engagement. Officers would also be meeting with operators to discuss the new Strategy and their input would be considered as this was developed. 

v)             Reliability and capacity were key issues in some areas. It would be important to engage with operators not just in respect of those routes that were no longer viable, but to increase capacity and connections on busier routes. The Director provided reassurance that focus was being given to the development of a core commercial offer that would drive such improvements and could also be supported by the increased grant funding allocated where appropriate.

vi)            A Member commented that more consideration needed to be given to the accessibility of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT). Whilst an excellent offer it was suggested that this was not adequately joined up and so did not improve connectivity across the County. The service was also reliant on residents having a smart phone to be able to make a booking online via an application. As different providers operated on different applications, this also acted as a barrier to establishing a fully joined up service. 

vii)          Members suggested that partnership work between bus operators and railway ticketing stations to provide an integrated service would be beneficial for the future. It was noted that this would be a commercial decision for bus operators and train companies not the local authority.

viii)         Members were reassured that the new DfT funding provided a new opportunity to reflect on and discuss with bus companies what services would be appropriate and ow to provide better local coverage. For example, whether a service should be replaced by a DRT service, or if a reduction in bus size would make a commercial route more affordable, possibly with a small subsidy by the Council, where passenger numbers were low, and the route was otherwise at risk of being declared unviable. 

ix)            It was noted that partnership work with the City Council was ongoing for other sources of funding such as the ZEBRA funding which it had already been successful in achieving. In response to Members query whether bus charging capacity was included the assistant Director confirmed that charging infrastructure would be part of the assessment.

The Lead Member for Highways and Transport took the opportunity to thank the Officers for their ongoing work in this area. The additional funding would be beneficial, but it was disappointing that the Government required this to be spent within such a short timescale. 



a)             That the presentation on the Passenger Transport Update be noted;


b)             That the views and comments from the Committee on the proposed approach be duly reported to the Cabinet.


c)             That the Director be requested to circulate the presentation to the district and parish councils for information to local people.

Supporting documents: