• Gareth Davies

Response to consultation on the Herefordshire Bus Service Improvement Plan. August 2021

Updated: Aug 31, 2021


In the Council’s consultation document on the Herefordshire BSIP, Councillor Harrington is correct in stating.... ‘Good and affordable transport is vital to the people of Herefordshire. An efficient and varied transport network is essential for the county’s economy’. This is backed up by the bold statement....’This administration is committed to increasing the bus network across the City, market towns and our villages. There will of course be challenges and there will be a need for investment into an improved bus network but we are determined to get residents and schoolchildren back onto buses in a way that we haven’t done for nearly two decades.

To this must now be added the very important aspects of:

  • tackling climate change and the need to significantly and quickly reduce carbon emissions from transport.

  • The need to tackle traffic congestion by encouraging people to switch from car to bus.

  • The need to address the inequality and social isolation experienced by those without access to a car as a result of declining bus services.

  • The need to protect the valuable Herefordshire environment, both rural and urban from increased traffic intrusion.

A much improved bus network can greatly assist in all this.

How is this going to be achieved? One major and perhaps most important factor is the need to provide an attractive, safe, comfortable, frequent, easily accessible and affordable alternative to the car. At the same time such an alternative can be a catalyst for the future economic and social well being of our rural and urban communities.

An alternative to the car already exists. It is the humble omnibus, which has been a significant part of Herefordshire life for many years, from pre first world war to the present and sustained by the unique existence of local bus operators in a corporate bus world.

However, as central government has finally realised, the bus has been forced into a shadow existence in the transport scene, especially in the more rural areas of Britain. Hence the publication of the government’s ‘Bus Back Better’ and the opportunity given to local authorities to prepare Bus Improvement Plans, pursue partnerships with operators and put a plan into action. As Councillor Harrington states.... ‘The financial incentives and the direction from central government asking bus service providers and local authorities to work together in ‘enhanced partnerships’ gives us the very best opportunity in decades for private bus companies and the Council to work together collaboratively, this is an opportunity we must not waste to return bus coverage in Herefordshire to levels that are sustainable and effective.


From Sweden a colleague reports ‘ This morning I will take a five minutes walk to get my bus into the nearest town (Jaerna in Sweden). I have over twenty buses each weekday and about ten on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. They connect with trains. They are affordable. They are punctual and reliable and they cost me just over £2 for any single trip by any local train or bus in any combination and changes as long as it is completed within 75 minutes’. Our ambition in Herefordshire should be to at least match this for the majority of the county’s population.

Whilst consultation with the public is important, it remains for the local authority to produce a BSIP of boldness and vision that will improve the lives of existing passengers, encourage new passengers to use the bus rather than a car and show the government that Herefordshire can provide a first-class bus network.

People will use buses if they are:

  • Convenient which means a frequent service.

  • The bus has distinct time and access advantage over the car through bus priority in urban areas.

  • The vehicles are comfortable and clean and there is a good standard of driving with helpful and informative drivers.

  • There is good roadside infrastructure such as provision of clean bus shelters.

  • There is good, easy to access information on bus times and routes.

  • There is a distinct cost advantage to using the bus rather than a car and there is a range of ticket types available for all ages with flexible ticketing between operators throughout the county.

Rail & Bus for Herefordshire has already published a Vision of Passenger Transport in Herefordshire which contains much detail about a potential network and level of service. HSTG fully endorses this document and its recommendations. However, it remains with Herefordshire Council to design and implement a bold county wide bus network that satisfies the basics identified above. We wish them well and offer any support that we can.

The consultation survey can be here (closes 15 August 2021): Bus service improvement plan survey—Herefordshire Consultations

Appendix: In 2014 a Passenger Opinion Survey was conducted for DRMBus Ltd. It identified some of the basic elements that people were looking for in a local bus service. A copy of the report is appended here.

Passenger survey report A5 amended July 2021
.pdf
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