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Big Conversation – there’s still time to have your say

Discussion in 'News Feed' started by Kent County Council, Jul 26, 2018. Replies: 0 | Views: 11

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    Residents are reminded there is still time to have their say in the consultation on what the future of rural transport in Kent could look like.

    Since June, public meetings have been held around the county to hear people’s views on rural transport in their area and how it might be maintained or improved in the future.

    Those unable to attend are invited to respond to the Big Conversation by completing an online questionnaire or picking up a hard copy from any Kent library. The consultation ends on August 8.

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    Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste Mike Whiting


    KCC cabinet member for transportation Mike Whiting, said: “I think this has been a very valuable series of meetings and it has been great to hear the views of the many hundreds who have attended.

    “I think the biggest surprise for many was that the county council only controls around 3% of bus services in Kent, with the remaining 97% being run by independent businesses, reporting directly to the government’s traffic commissioner.

    “Some people also assume KCC must be providing less in subsidy for the services it does provide – that is not the case. Each year we spend more money on supporting bus journeys in Kent.

    “The purpose of The Big Conversation is to ascertain whether we can provide more people in rural areas with a reliable service.”

    Since 1985, the operation of bus services has been in the hands of private companies, not public bodies.

    Since this change, KCC has had no regulatory powers over where services run and does not have the ability to alter changes made by private companies running the buses – nor do they need to notify KCC.

    This is the case right across the UK, though bus services in London were not deregulated and so Transport for London still specify its routes, fares, and the number of services.

    Across Kent, 97% of buses are run as a business with KCC able to provide money to those companies to run a further 3% of the county’s services where areas would be left with fewer, or, in some cases, no service at all.

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    Kent County Council does have a public transport department and a budget which is made up of:

    • £7 million for local bus routes
    • £650,000 on Kent Karrier contracts, a dial-a-ride service
    • £6.5 million on home to school transport for school children
    • £23 million on Special Educational Needs home to school transport
    • £1.5 million on transportation
    • £17 million on free transport for those with an older person’s bus pass
    • £10 million on the concessionary travel for school children

    The consultation proposes three ideas for schemes that have proven successful elsewhere in the country and asks what the public think of them.

    These include creating feeder services which take people to bus stops on routes already covered by commercial services.

    Another idea is a bookable and flexible bus service which would cover a specific area, be utilised for specific journeys, for example going to school or to go to a doctor, and could be provided similar to the way community transport schemes are run.

    Community transport schemes allow parish councils, charities, and community groups to set up transport schemes to meet the needs of their own communities.

    The third idea is a taxi-bus. This could be utilised in areas where demand for public transport is lower but means people can book a bus and pay far less than a taxi ride would cost.

    For more information and to take part, visit at www.kent.gov.uk/bigconversation

    Questions & Answers

    Who runs bus services?

    Local bus services are not public services, like a taxi company or an airline, they are services provided by private companies.

    You pay a fare to travel from point A to point B and if there is not enough of you travelling, then they don’t provide a service. As such they are profit driven and have no obligation with regards to social need or to serve particular areas, value for money fares or to consult.

    This is national policy, controlled by the Department for Transport. In some instances, Kent County Council can step in and provide a subsidy to ensure the bus continues running but has a limited budget to do this.

    Why don’t you have any control over what bus operators do?

    Since 1985, the operation of bus services has been in the hands of private companies, not public bodies. The Transport Act 1985 privatised and deregulated bus services throughout Great Britain.

    Since this change, KCC has had no regulatory powers over where services run and does not have the ability to alter changes made by private companies running the buses – nor do they need to notify KCC.

    This is the case right across the UK, though bus services in London were not deregulated and so Transport for London still specify its routes, fares, and the number of services.

    So, you just wipe your hands of it?

    KCC works with the 12 district and borough authorities in Quality Bus Partnerships. As part of their work, the partnership monitor and periodically report on the quality and reliability of bus services.

    They also regularly review the existing network with a view to ensuring customer travel needs are met. However, the partnership has no specific powers to change bus services.

    KCC also regularly has meetings with bus operators to discuss issues and how best provide services for the people of Kent.

    I heard that the government had given new powers to local authorities?

    Recent changes by the government made in the Bus Services Act 2017 gave more power to local authorities to franchise its own services. The ‘London-style powers to franchise local services’ were only given to mayoral combined authorities.

    You keep saying what you can’t do, what CAN you do?

    KCC can subsidise bus routes but only has a small budget with which to do so. For that reason, it must make careful use of taxpayer’s money.

    Earlier this year KCC ran a grant funding scheme for parish councils wishing to set up their own community transport scheme or develop an existing one.

    With this consultation, KCC is looking to see what ideas could be developed for the future allowing us to reach communities that have lost their commercial bus routes and/or do not have easy access to a KCC subsidised service.

    There are already numerous community transport schemes running, which can be viewed here.

    Why can’t you just subsidise more bus routes and stop all these different ideas?

    In many cases KCC doesn’t subsidise whole routes. It could be on a single day of the week, it could be an extra two services after 6pm, for example. KCC has no powers to introduce a bus in an area where no commercial bus exists so we can only support areas with additional services where the commercial operators actually run buses.

    I’ve got a free bus pass, yet you want me to pay?

    KCC spends £17 million financing the free bus pass scheme. The scheme is mandatory for KCC and provides older people and disabled people with free off-peak travel on all local bus services.

    The government, unfortunately, does not reimburse the actual costs in providing it. KCC has no intention of denying anyone the opportunity to use their bus pass, but ultimately the pass only works if there is a bus to use, and as has already been highlighted, if it is not commercially viable, bus companies may not run a service for you to use.


    KCC Media Hub: Big Conversation – there’s still time to have your say

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