Our Enhanced Partnership Plan: Bus Back Better Enhanced Partnership consultation
Consultation closed: Monday 24 January 2022 (responses had to be submitted before 11:59pm on Sunday 23 January 2022)
Consultation opened: Thursday 6 January 2022
The Enhanced Partnership Plan area and time period
The Enhanced Partnership Plan will cover the whole of the administrative area of Central Bedfordshire Council, as shown in the map below.
The plan is for a period of five years covering the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2027.
Local bus network overview
Central Bedfordshire is a largely rural area and car ownership is higher than the average for England.
Because of the predominantly rural nature of the Central Bedfordshire area, and the strong movements to and from towns and cities outside the authority boundaries, we have collaborated with neighbouring partnerships throughout the development of the Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme and are working together on key projects to ensure geographical boundaries do not put our residents at a disadvantage.
Other bus services in Central Bedfordshire are split into three categories:
- core (routes connecting major towns)
- secondary (feeder services to a local town)
- third-tier services (infrequent journeys where there is limited demand)
Analysis of the bus service links between the key centres within Central Bedfordshire and to nearby large towns shows considerable disparity in provision.
Public consultation on bus services in Central Bedfordshire
We've conducted household travel surveys every 2 years since 2010 (there was no survey commissioned in 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel).
The surveys are an important part of monitoring performance against our Local Transport Plan and to inform the development of future transport planning policies and activities. The household travel survey examines attitudes to train travel as well as bus.
This survey has demonstrated consistent increases in satisfaction amongst users of many of the elements of public transport.
Through detailed discussions with the stakeholders, bus operators and the neighbouring partnerships, and using the feedback from the public consultation exercise, the partnership has identified a series of specific measures designed to address current service issues and deliver an enhanced bus network provision in Central Bedfordshire.
The measures fall into five defined categories:
- promotion and publicity
- operational benefit
- network development
- fares and ticketing
The outcomes that the partnership expects to achieve are described, in detail, within the Bus Service Improvement Plan, and have been adopted into the Enhanced Partnership Plan. These outcomes have been translated into a series of measures within the Enhanced Partnership Scheme.
- enhance service levels across the partnership area
- increase patronage on the bus services
- multi-operator ticketing
- fares capping
- young persons’ fare concessions
- bus service reliability
- journey punctuality
- quality of the buses
- quality and increase the accessibility to bus service information
- quality of passenger infrastructure
- passenger liaison
- increase passenger satisfaction
- support emission reduction
- market and promote the bus service network holistically
To deliver some of these outcomes, close partnership working has been established with neighbouring partnerships to develop initiatives across Bedfordshire and with neighbouring councils. The development of measures has also resulted in closer working arrangements within our own teams, including, for example: liaison with our highways team to improve business processes and communication, which will minimise disruption to bus services and impacts on passengers.
Enhanced Partnership governance arrangements
The Enhanced Partnership will be governed by the Central Bedfordshire Enhanced Partnership Board.
The board will receive representations from two other groups:
- the Central Bedfordshire Enhanced Partnership Stakeholder Forum
- the Central Bedfordshire Bus Operators Group
The Central Bedfordshire Enhanced Partnership Board will be the decision-making body of the Enhanced Partnership. This is the body which will formally make recommendations on the delivery of the Enhanced Partnership Plan through the Enhanced Partnership Scheme(s). The role of the board will be to:
- set the future aims and objectives of the Enhanced Partnership, Enhanced Partnership Plan and Bus Service Improvement Plan, including any changes that should be made
- develop and make policy recommendations to us about planning and priorities for the improvement of the local bus network
- develop and make operational recommendations to operators for the improvement of the local bus network
- develop recommendations for any variations in the Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme
- be a consultee on any changes in policies such as the Local Transport Plan and Local Plan
The board will comprise:
- chair: as nominated and elected by the board, serving 12 months (voting, but qualified as below)
- a nominated representative from Central Bedfordshire Council (1 voting member and right of veto, as outlined below)
- a nominated representative from each of the operators of qualifying registered local bus services operating in our area, which are operated on a commercial basis (i.e. without funding from us or Section 106) (initially 5 voting members, as at April 2022)
- a nominated representative from each of the neighbouring partnership areas of Luton Borough Council and Bedford Borough Council (2 voting members)
If the chair of the board is a representative of one of the bus operators or of Central Bedfordshire Council, they will have the right to exercise their vote. In the event that the chair is independent of the operators or us, they will have no entitlement to vote.
If a new operator of commercial bus services enters the market in the Enhanced Partnership area, they will be invited to become a member of the Enhanced Partnership Board.
We may, in exceptional circumstances, exercise a veto over board decisions which we may reasonably believe or suspect as having anti-competitive implications that may pose a conflict with competition legislation.
Decisions on matters which are likely to be significant in terms of their effects on local communities and/or with financial impacts on us will be subject to our normal constitution and governance policies and processes.
Review and consultation process
The Enhanced Partnership Board will conduct an initial, mid-year review of the Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme, to assess whether any modifications are necessary following its first 6 months in operation. This initial review will consider the working arrangements and the monitoring and reporting procedures.
In October 2022, we will request a meeting of the Enhanced Partnership Board, to commence the review that shall complete no later than 31 October 2022.
Thereafter, the Enhanced Partnership Plan will be reviewed by 31 March every year, alongside the Bus Service Improvement Plan, following publication of data on progress towards targets, as required by the Bus Service Improvement Plan and the results of any qualitative research on public transport, e.g. the bi-annual household travel surveys. This will ensure that any necessary remedial action can be taken to deliver the targets set out in the Bus Service Improvement Plan.
The annual review process of the Bus Service Improvement Plan and the Enhanced Partnership Plan will be conducted by the Enhanced Partnership Board.
The board can also decide, in accordance with the vote process referred to in the Enhanced Partnership governance arrangements, to review specific elements within the Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme on an ad-hoc basis, if it is considered necessary to the delivery of the measure or to achieve the target(s).
Variations to the Enhanced Partnership Plan can be made, provided that the variation contributes to achieving the overall objectives set out in the Bus Service Improvement Plan and current local transport policies and that the variation will benefit passengers or reduce traffic congestion, noise or air pollution.
Any Enhanced Partnership Plan variation requires the full consultation procedure to be followed.
An Enhanced Partnership Plan can't be revoked without also revoking all the schemes that are attached to it. If the board recommends a plan variation, through a vote, taken in accordance with the Enhanced Partnership governance arrangements, that the appropriate action would be to revoke the entire Enhanced Partnership Plan, the default operator objection mechanism set out in the Enhanced Partnerships and Schemes (Objections) Regulations 2018 (as may be varied from time to time) will be used to determine if that course of action should proceed.