Nottinghamshire County Council has a duty to consider the introduction of bus services where commercial services are withdrawn, but it doesn’t have an obligation to provide them, writes Coun John Cottee.
The council can also introduce improvements to the frequency of services or start up new ones, but the bulk of any financial risk must rest with commercial operators.
The council spends £3.6 million to financially support more than 60 contracts delivering local bus services across Nottinghamshire.
Many supported services operate on fixed routes to specific destinations, to meet the council’s key objectives.
For example, the council supports peak hour journeys to get people to work or education as well as off-peak journeys so that people can get to doctors’ surgeries or hospitals and to shopping, leisure and other recreational activities.
Overall, transport provision across the county is highly regarded.
Transport Focus, in its annual bus passenger surveys measuring satisfaction rates, has consistently ranked Nottinghamshire top and the local bus companies - NCT, Trentbarton and Stagecoach - amongst the top bus operators nationally
Additionally, 83 per cent of Nottinghamshire households are within a ten-minute walk of a bus stop that has an hourly or more frequent service during the day to key destinations.
The council wants to maintain good bus services which continue to support our ambitious plans for growth, so its new bus strategy will help inform future investment priorities.
The council will explore alternative ways to provide services where commercial services are struggling and look at how they’ve been used elsewhere.
For example, this could be taxibuses which are pre-booked and only run when they are needed, or demand responsive transport, where sections of the route are on demand and pre-booked in the same way as taxibuses.
Services could also be reconfigured, so they connect people into the main bus corridors, at interchange hubs, which can also improve travel options.
The council will test these alternatives to see what works best for Nottinghamshire.
There’ll be different solutions for different areas, as one size won’t fit all situations.
Indeed, any proposed changes will be developed with local communities to make sure they meet people’s needs.
Each year, more than 27 million bus journeys take place across Nottinghamshire, and 1.8 million of these are on county council supported services.
The council is working hard to ensure that we invest wisely in bus services and infrastructure, which includes making the most of the funding opportunities available.
Bus services are a lifeline - particularly in rural areas - and this council wants to ensure that they are fit for future use.