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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 18 November, 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

Rural Bus Service

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To propose a new bus service serving the areas of Llantwit Major, Cowbridge, Bridgend and the surrounding villages, following the withdrawal of the Village Bus Service.  The service will be delivered by Greenlinks Community Transport on a demand responsive basis.

Recommendations

1.         That the delivery of a demand responsive bus service in the Western Vale for a trial period up to 31st March 2014 based on the guideline schedule (Appendix A) be approved.

2.         That the service be delivered by Greenlinks Community Transport.

3.         That an ongoing evaluation of the service be conducted during its operation and reported back to Cabinet prior to the close of the trial period on the 31st March 2014.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To provide means of public/community transport for residents of rural Vale in a cost effective manner.

2.         To further develop the Greenlinks Community Transport service and provide a sustainable service.

3.         To evaluate usage and cost effectiveness of the proposed community transport service.

Background

2.         The Village Bus service operated across the rural Vale through the delivery of four routes:  V1, V2, V5 and V6.  The V1/V2 routes serviced the Western Vale, including St Athan, Llantwit Major, Cowbridge, Bridgend and its surrounding villages.  This service was a two vehicle operation.  The V5/V6 operated in the Eastern Vale, connecting Rhoose, Barry, Peterston Super Ely, Cowbridge and its surrounding villages. This was a one vehicle operation.

3.         These public transport routes were also used by school children attending Cowbridge Comprehensive School, although the children in question were not entitled to free school transport as they lived less than 3 miles away from the school or were out of catchment.

4.         The Village Bus Service was a supported service costing approximately £150,000 a year (£490 per day for 3 vehicles).

5.         In May 2013, the operator gave notice of his intention to terminate these services due to affordability.  On 20th July 2013, the Village Bus Service ceased operating.  This was reported to Cabinet on 29th July 2013 in the Regional Transport Consortia Grant (RTCG) and Safe Routes in Communities (SRIC) Grant Award 2013/14 report (paragraph 19 refers).

6.         In June 2013 a bus survey was conducted over a one week period to establish the existing usage of the Village Bus Service.  Attached in Appendix B is a visual representation of the V1/V2 operation (excluding school movements).  Over a 6 day period the service provided 547 single passenger journeys.  The V5/V6 was less well used by members of the public accommodating 197 single passenger journeys.   The school passenger journeys for the V1/V2 and V5/V6 were 345 and 189 respectively.

7.         Creative Rural Communities was granted European funding via their Rural Development Plan to develop a Community Transport project within the rural Vale in 2009.  The Greenlinks Community transport service, operated by the Council was launched with a 13 seater accessible bus on 4 June 2010.  Using a Section 19 permit, the service operated a door to door service for those living in the rural Vale.

8.         A further funding package was granted via RDP for the continued delivery of the project from March 2011 to December 2013.  In February 2013 the timescale was extended to March 2014.

9.         Greenlinks now operates three vehicles; the original 13 seater accessible bus, a seven seater VW Sharan donated by NPower in January 2011 ; and a new 9 seater accessible bus funded via Sewta and LTSG (now known as RTSG).  The service operates both on Section 19 and Section 22 permits.  All three vehicles have a Section 19 permit, whilst the two larger vehicles also hold Section 22 permits. Both buses have been used to deliver local bus routes on both fixed and flexible routes. 

10.      Notably the G4 service operating on a Thursday providing transport from the Coastal towns and villages between Llantwit Major and Rhoose to Culverhouse Cross, Heath Hospital and Cardiff is successful, regularly carrying 8 or 9 people.  The service is delivered as a flexible service, whereby passengers must call in advance to request a seat on the bus.  This particular service is operated on a Section 22 permit.

11.      Services delivered under the Section 22 permit are able to accept concessionary (free) bus passes, whilst services delivered under Section 19 are not.  Greenlinks is a member of the Concessionary Fare scheme of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cardiff Council and Bridgend Council and has received reimbursements from these Councils on a quarterly basis for their registered routes.

12.      Greenlinks currently provides approximately 500 passenger journeys a month.

Relevant Issues and Options

13.      Community Transport is used to cover a variety of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) schemes carrying different passengers in different ways.  Demand Responsive Transport only operates if users have requested the service in advance, as explained in paragraph 23.  Community Transport, with the use of accessible vehicles has traditionally provided transport for the mobility impaired, either through disability and/or age and who cannot access conventional public transport.  However, it is also used to provide demand responsive transport which caters for geographically, socially or economically isolated users of all ages.  It normally offers affordable fares and services operate under Section 19 or 22 permits.  Staff/drivers are paid or volunteers.

14.      Not for Profit organisations can obtain permits under Section 19 and 22 of the Transport Act 1985.  These permits provide exemption to the organisation from the need to hold a PSV operator's licence when providing transport for a charge.  These permits also allow drivers with D1 (101) licences to drive people who pay individual fares, providing the vehicles have no more than 16 passenger seats.  Vehicles with 17 or more passenger seats will require drivers with PCV licences.

15.      Vehicles operating Section 19 permits can not carry members of the general public, and can only carry persons who meet the identified classifications of the permit.  One such classification is passengers are members of the organisation or body holding the permit.  These permits can be used on small vehicles carrying eight or fewer passengers as well as vehicles of up to 16 passenger seats.

16.      Vehicles operating Section 22 permits can run a local bus services on a non profit making basis and can carry members of the general public.  Vehicles must have no fewer than 9 passenger seats. Local bus services can range between fixed route and on-demand flexible routes within a specified area.  These local services must be registered with the Traffic Commissioner 28 days in advance of first day of operation. 

17.      The results of the survey for the V1/V2 service demonstrated a need for public transport albeit on a less frequent basis.  Excluding school children, 58% of the passengers held concessionary bus passes, 30% bought single or return tickets, whilst the remainder held other types of passes or had disabilities.  Of those who used the service, 40% used it for shopping; 13% for social, 4% for health, 16% for work; and the remainder used it for a combination of the above or other.  The majority of the work movement was between Llantwit Major and Cowbridge and travelled throughout the day.

18.       Movements could also be identified into four distinct areas:  between Llantwit Major and Cowbridge: 44%; between Cowbridge and Bridgend: 33%; between Llantwit Major and Bridgend (i.e. did not disembark at Cowbridge): 6% and between Llantwit Major and St Athan: 17%.   The number of passengers on the vehicle at any one time was never greater than 13 with the exception of school movement when the vehicles carried in excess of 20 school children.

19.      During Summer 2013, a private bus operator consulted with parents with regards to providing a service specifically for school children to Cowbridge Comprehensive school. In September 2013, the majority of the school children previously catching the V1/V2 and V5 now travel to school via a privately organised bus operation.   

20.      Also during the summer, 4 bus operators were asked to provide a quote for a one vehicle operation to service the Western Vale. The quotes received ranged between £180 to £299 a day.

21.      Since the demise of the Village Bus Service expressions of interest in Greenlinks has increased threefold.  A stumbling block for a number of people using the Greenlinks service is the inability to use their concessionary pass and the need to have to pre-book a seat on the bus.  However other Councils have successfully implemented a demand responsive service which allows the use of concessionary bus passes and have succeeded in becoming self financing.

22.      The guideline timetable identified in Appendix A can cater for some work movement and social mobility as identified in the survey.  However it will not cater for school movement nor movement between Llantwit Major and St Athan, which now benefits from an hourly service from the 303 service.  The Greenlinks service would not be able to cater for the school movement due to the sheer volume of passengers and by reason of the service only having a 13 seater vehicle.  Demand from the smaller villages such as New Barn, St Mary Church and St Hilary is low and it is proposed to meet any such demand using Greenlinks Section 19 permit work.

23.      The guideline timetable identifies proposed times of arrival for the towns.  The service will be able to cater for all the villages such as Colwinston, Llysworney and Sigginstone as examples, as identified on the timetable; however it will not travel to these villages unless a booking has been received requesting transport to or from a village.  Members of the public will have to pre-book a seat on the bus by phone, by 12 noon the day before travel.  Consideration will be given to other means of communication, e.g. text, email, in due course.  Passengers of this service will not have to be a member of the Greenlinks scheme to access this particular service.  The service will be registered under the Section 22 permit; therefore passengers will also be able to use their concessionary passes.  Greenlinks will be able to seek reimbursement from the Concessionary Fare Scheme of the Vale and Bridgend Councils, where appropriate.

24.      Greenlinks currently provides a 2½ vehicle operation across the County.  It has the capacity to be able to deliver a one vehicle operation in the Western Vale, in addition to the existing work using the existing fleet. However, when one vehicle is off the road for maintenance/safety checks, it will hamper the ability to provide a full service.   It is anticipated that either the 13 or 9 seater bus will be able to deliver the new service, depending on the demand.  The services delivered under the Section 22 permit would take precedence over the Section 19 permit work.

25.      In the longer term, to be able to cater for the new demand on the community transport service and ensure adequate cover to allow for maintenance and safety checks a fourth vehicle is required.  A successful bid has been submitted to Sewta for capital funding for the purchase of a fourth vehicle.  A 12 seater accessible vehicle is currently being sought, subject to a tendering process.  The existing Sharan vehicle also needs replacing due to age, mileage and increasing maintenance costs.   Costs for a replacement vehicle are currently being sought.

26.      The administration work for the service has increased due to the increasing number of members and high volume of calls to the freephone number.  Further consideration to providing a full time administrator is required.  In the immediate future, an administrator will be appointed under a short term contract until the end of March 2014 to support both the Greenlinks service and school transport service.

27.      Greenlinks currently has 13 regular volunteer drivers and one paid driver.  On average volunteers drive once a week whilst the paid driver works 2 or 3 days a week.  Five drivers are currently competent in using the ticket machine.  Delivery of the new service will require 2 drivers a day, as the shift is too long for one person.  However at commencement and until demand is established it is anticipated that the shifts will be shorter and one driver will be able to deliver the service.  This will be reviewed on a weekly basis.  In the meantime Greenlinks has a good working relationship with Vale Volunteer Bureau who actively promotes Greenlinks volunteer driver opportunities.

28.      The anticipated cost per day to deliver this service will be approximately £136 per day.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

29.      The financial cost of delivering the service for the trial period is identified in Appendix C.  Charges will be based on a Zoned Pricing Plan, which is attached at Appendix D.

30.      The service will be funded via RDP up until 31 March 2014.  The success of the service will be reviewed during this trial period.  If successful, further consideration will be required on the future funding of the service from transportation budgets and other funding options such as planning gain (S106/CIL) and Sewta.  A further report on the future of Greenlinks post March 2014 will be submitted for consideration in due course.

31.      An administrator will be appointed until March 2014 to support Greenlinks, however if the service is to continue a full time post will be required.

32.      The pilot scheme can be delivered using the existing paid driver and pool of volunteers, however in the longer term it would be prudent to employ additional paid drivers.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

33.      The provision of a demand responsive service will assist in the reduction of unnecessary mileage, thereby reducing carbon emissions and providing a different and more sustainable mode of public/community transport.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

34.      The Council would need to apply to the Traffic Commissioner to register a flexible on demand local bus service.  Details such as the flexible area of operation and guideline timetables will need to be submitted at least 28 days before the start of the service;

35.      Once registered the Council will be committed to providing a service under the terms of the Transport Act 1985, until a withdrawal of service notice is issued to the Traffic Commissioner providing 28 days notice.

Crime and Disorder Implications

36.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

37.      There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

38.      The proposal recommended would improve the quality of life and enhance the safety of residents and visitors in the Vale.  The service will also assist the Council achieve the UK Government and Welsh Government environmental and healthy living targets.

39.      The provision of reliable and efficient public transport services provides alternative means of travel to the car, and ensures good accessibility for those without access to private transport.  This links with the Council's objectives for social well being and tackling disadvantages.

Policy Framework and Budget

40.      This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

41.      No specific Ward Member consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

42.      Economy & Environment

Background Papers

Appendix A - Guideline Schedule

Appendix B - Village Bus (V1/V2) Survey Results

Appendix C - Finance

Appendix D - Greenlinks Fare Zones

 

Contact Officer

Enfys Griffiths  - Community Transport Co-ordinator - Tel:  01446 704870

 

Officers Consulted

Finance

Legal

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services