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Items Requiring Urgent Attention
Items which in the opinion of the Chairman should be considered at the meeting as matters of urgency.
No item was raised as a matter of urgency.
1) The current and ongoing serious unreliability, under performance, technology failures, and general unaffordability of our current bus services.
2) The recent rise in bus fares and the inclusivity of the proposed new pricing structure.
3) The recent temporary extension of the pandemic recovery funding for bus operators.
4) The recent decision by Stagecoach Ltd to reject a merger with National Express and its potential operational consequences for buses in and around Exeter.
5) The recent decision by Stagecoach Ltd to accept the offer from DWS Alternative Global Limited Infrastructure for a takeover, and it's potential operational consequences for buses in and around Exeter.
A Briefing Report by the Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment (PTE/22/ ) is attached (to follow)
(Councillors Philip Bialyk and Barbara Denning (both Exeter City Council) and Councillor Andrea Davis attended in accordance with Standing Order 25 and spoke to this item)
(Sharon Pavey (TEABAG campaign group) attended and spoke at the invitation of the Chair).
The Committee considered a Briefing Note by the Head of the Transport Coordination Service, Devon County Council. This covered the background and the reducing frequency of certain bus services operated by Stagecoach in Exeter. This reflected the acute shortage of drivers to carry out their registered bus services and the current level of patronage.
While a commercial decision, officers from the County Council’s Transport Coordination Service regularly met with and challenged the changes, in particular to ensure there would be enough capacity in the network.
The Note also outlined the operational context for bus services in Devon
under the 1985 Transport Act where bus operators stated which services they wished to run on a commercial basis, including timetables, routes, and fares. The Local Transport Authority’s (LTA) role was to look at where services were not provided commercially and tender routes that were deemed an essential social requirement.
Since March 2020 bus services had been supported by central Government funding. This funding had been used to maintain essential services due to the impact of the reduction in passenger numbers. The Covid Bus Services Support Grant (CBSSG) had been followed by the Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) and was paid to local bus companies for commercial services and local transport authorities (LTAs) for financially supported services.
From April 2022, for a period of 6 months, there would be a further Government fund, the Local Transport Fund. At the time of writing the County Council had yet to receive notification of its allocation or any conditions attached.
The Note also covered patronage levels, fares and driver shortages.
Following a meeting with Exeter County Councillors on 17 March 2022, Officers had been working through the issues raised with Stagecoach and making sure the revised scheduling from 10 April was as supportive as possible.
The Note also referred to the National Bus Strategy announced in March 2021. This set out that to be eligible for a part of the £3billion fund announced at the time all LTAs had to do the following:
1. Establish an “Enhanced Partnership” for the future delivery of bus services. This was a process, as set out in the 2017 Bus Services Act where a formal partnership was formed between the LTA and local bus companies for the delivery of all local bus services within its area. The County Council was following the statutory process for this to be in place.
2. Submit a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP): All LTAs had been asked to submit a BSIP by 31 October 2021. The County Council’s plan had been approved by Cabinet earlier that month and was based on the message from the Department for Transport – be ambitious.
On Monday 4 April 2022 the Department for Transport responded to all LTAs setting ... view the full minutes text for item 45.