DHBUG was represented at the summer meeting in Maldon. All our local operators were present, with the exception of First. The meeting was facilitated by Essex County Council (ECC) Integrated Passenger Transport Unit (IPTU). Matters relating to bus stop infrastructure are handled separately by ECC Highways, who say they are unable to field personnel at each of the District meetings. They will therefore hold their own central meeting sometime later this year. The next meeting convened by the IPTU will be “early next year”.
The following matters were covered:
UUpdates on two recent Consultations
1) Local Bus Contracted Services
Good response, over 3,400 people.
2751 responded to Section 1 ‘Policies’
1119 responded to Section 2 ‘Getting the right type of service’
985 responded to Section 3 ‘Devolution’
952 responded to ‘You and your specific journeys’
The consultation was complex.
ECC currently analysing results and preparing tenders.
Decisions expected by the end of the summer, when a further update will be given.
2) ECC Park and Ride Services - use of Concessionary Bus Passes by Older People
approx. 1,350 responses:
papers based on the findings have been raised for Cabinet discussion
no decisions yet - expected by the end of the summer.
RReport It’ Tool
If you notice any damaged bus shelters, timetable frames and bus flags and poles or if your timetable is out of date or a real time display is not working correctly you can report these through the ‘Report It Tool’ below. The information will then be emailed to the correct team to deal with.
https://www.essexhighways.org/transport-and-roads/tell-us/bus-stops.aspx - or search ‘Essex Highways Report It’
RIntegrated Passenger Transport Unit (IPTU) projects - update
Park and Ride Business Sales
ECC aims to:-
Identify businesses close to the route that could benefit from the service.
Arrange drop in clinics to show what the service can offer individuals and businesses.
Secure behaviour change for people to use buses and public transport as an option.
Build relationships with local businesses to help learn of any future business opportunities.
reduces traffic congestion;
reduces air pollution;
reduces stress and worry about getting a parking space at work, which can affect wellbeing;
Easily identifiable buses.
Extra revenue achieved since April 2017 is £25,000.
SShotl (pronounced “shuttle”!)
Working in partnership with Jacobs and Shotl, this project is piloting a technological solution to transport challenges using an on-demand app and routing algorithms. The development of a digital platform will hopefully allow un-met needs to be identified and data-driven services to be provided.
The benefits claimed for demand-led transport are various -
Opportunities for the customer:
more transport options, more attractive services;
shorter journey times, more convenient times;
improved access and reduced social isolation.
Opportunities for the industry:
to grow commercially using data-driven evidence;
to harness spare capacity.
Opportunities for the authority and the local community:
reduction in costs of providing supported local bus services;
reduction in congestion on road network.
A pilot has been running for 6 months using ECC in-house fleet (‘Community Link’), focused on two existing services: South Essex College in Rochford and Ongar Academy in Epping Forest. The longer-term ambition is to expand to cover other unmet demand, improved access to the NHS, Sunday supported services, etc.,
CChange of Software
ECC plans to offer a bureau service compatible with the Department for Transport’s ‘Open Data’. ‘TransXChange’ compliance means that data can readily be transferred between operators and other local authorities.
TThe RTPI Advertising Project
Working with JMW Systems, this project is piloting the generation of income through advertising on existing ECC real-time infrastructure.
ECC has a contract with JMW Systems for the maintenance and provision of a real-time passenger information system until November 2022 across the county of Essex. Following a change to this contract, there are plans to refresh and modernise the estate over the coming years.
The real-time data screens are capable for being pre-programmed with adverts that vary according to time of day. Advertising opportunities have apparently proved popular, especially with local businesses. Although this project is currently in the pilot phase, there are plans in hand to extend it to other areas of the county. Revenue generated through the advertising income venture could cover future years’ maintenance costs.
Finalists of the Children and Young People Now Awards 2018
The ECC travel training team reached the finals of the ‘Children and Young People Now Awards’. They were nominated for partnership working with schools and transport providers in delivering ‘try a train day’.
Finalists of the Transport Awards 2018
The ECC local bus team reached the finals of the annual Transport Awards for their work reviewing Supported Local Bus Network. The team focused on making more efficient use of limited resources while improving the connectivity of services available, especially in rural areas. Following consultation, a new strategy was adopted. This was designed to make the network stronger and reverse the national trend of decline in public transport.
1) The Mayland representative was highly critical of services provided by Hedingham Omnibus (now part of the ‘Go-Ahead’ group). There appears to have been a marked deterioration since closure of the depot at Tollesbury. The rep from Hedingham said "I would like to understand why it is felt that we are not providing a good enough service when all our data shows this not to be the case." Agreed this matter to be pursued at a separate meeting.
2) Several complaints were made about missing or out-of-date bus timetable displays. ECC lacks the resources to check whether the updates it pays for are in fact posted in a timely fashion. It looks as though some contractors are more efficient than others.
3) Operators were quizzed as whether they intended to phase out printed information. All those present affirmed their commitment to continue producing booklets and flyers. However, ECC and First Bus have already stopped producing hard copy information.
4) Various comments were aired concerning the age and serviceability of vehicles currently in use by all our local operators. Stephensons’ Director Bill Hiron offered an informative and helpful response. The current ‘Euro 6’ specification for bus engines is tighter than the car equivalent. Older vehicles will not be so clean but generally carry many more passengers than a number of cars. But modern buses are very expensive, electric ones prohibitively so (plus the grid could not cope with charging and battery life not long enough for a large vehicle). ECC used to favour cleaner vehicles when awarding contracts, but in an age of austerity there is an incentive for operators to use the cheapest and oldest bus that enables them to bring their price down to a competitive level.
5) There is continuing concern that no-one accepts responsibility for posting information at bus stops that are temporarily out of use on account of road works, carnivals, street fairs and the like. ECC used to do this, but were obliged to withdraw on account of lack of personnel. In some parts of the county, town/parish councils and their Transport Reps would appear to be kept well informed of upcoming road diversions, but in Maldon District this is not happening - ECC officers to investigate.
ESelect Committee on Intergenrational Fairness
BHOUSE OF LORDS Report published 25 April 20199
Here are some of the Committee’s recommendations regarding age-related benefits:-
The triple lock for the State Pension should be removed.
The State Pension should be uprated in line with average earnings to ensure parity with working people.
The Government should seek to target existing age-related benefits better at individuals outside the workforce.
Age thresholds should be raised.
Free television licences for all over a certain age should be phased out. Those who can afford to pay for a television licence should do so. The poorest may be subsidised directly by the Government, if it so chooses.
From 2026–28 when the State Pension age is due to rise to 67,
free bus passes
and Winter Fuel Payments
should be available no sooner than five years after the State Pension age
and age thresholds should be aligned across benefits. The difference should be maintained from then on as the State Pension age rises. There should be transitional protection so that individuals who currently receive these payments continue to receive them.
Alongside changing the age of applicability, the Government should investigate the feasibility of treating these benefits as taxable income for those above the tax threshold without requiring individuals who currently do not complete an income tax form having to fill out a form.
During the session when the committee looked specifically at age-related benefits an expert witness questioned the fairness of allowing individuals in their early 60s to receive free transport whilst still working, when the funding for services for those who have serious difficulty in accessing transport like Dial-a-Ride, was severely restricted.
Growing numbers of bus passengers make active use of smartphones. Their experiences are varied. Some are well satisfied; others express frustration at the instability, ambiguity and unreliability of applications designed to display bus times. But these are early days: technology advances quickly, yet erratically. Users are advised to update their phones regularly, to maintain compatibility with the latest developments. The government is currently consulting on future options, to ensure maximum benefit from open data systems. An enthusiastic DHBUG committee member reckons the situation will improve dramatically over the next few years, though at some cost to the end user (such as accepting advertisements or paying a premium charge to a third-party provider of information).
DHBUG wants to see some kind of advance notification placed on buses and at stops as a matter of routine. If Essex Highways can put a notice by the roadside to alert vehicle drivers, surely they could place information at bus stops, too. If such information were passed to DHBUG we could e-mail our local members with the closure details and ask them to pass on the news.
DHBUG has offered to post notices at bus stops on request from operators or ECC. To date, no requests have been received. It would be good to see operators make better use of new ticket machines to broadcast appropriate reminder information to drivers and perhaps even trigger onboard announcements to customers. Better use could also be made of local radio (traffic & travel bulletins).
The Chair of DHBUG has written to operators and to representatives of the Council with a request that these matters be considered as a matter of urgency. We'll let you know the outcome in due course. In the meantime, please continue to report any problems you may experience, so that we can keep tabs on what's going on. Thank you for your support and encouragement!
ENHS treatment - who determines the "point of delivery"?
We're starting to pick up signs of anxiety from local residents called to attend outpatient clinics at Braintree Community Hospital. If their appointment is early in the day, bus users may need to leave Burnham around six or seven in the morning! It's not clear just how easy (or difficult) it is to negotiate an alternative location. Yet further complications may arise in situations where the NHS is indeed able to offer patients a significantly wider choice. Broadening the range of potential medical destinations may disperse passenger loadings in such a way as to provoke a dilution of scarce public transport resources. And if significant numbers of local residents want (for whatever reason) to look beyond their nearest surgery for NHS care, would they be justified in requesting additional bus services to support their freedom of medical choice? Do let us know your feelings on these matters.
EMaking Connections ~ some observations by a DHBUG member1
Public transport users prefer ‘through’ journeys wherever possible. There is a palpable mis-trust of itineraries involving connections, even within a single modality. Operators’ hands are largely tied by a range of external constraints such as infrastructure (single track railways with limited passing loops), compliance (bus drivers’ working time availability), and resource limitations (the sheer impossibility of securing coherent interactions at each and every node within a disparate network).
For a variety of reasons, it is arguable that bus times should be dependent upon rail times, although rail times can vary not only at short notice but also in the longer term: for example, an extended programme of engineering works means that Sunday services on the Crouch Valley Line are regularly provided by substitute bus services that do violence to bus/rail connections at Southminster.
Public transport users want to feel “looked after” at every stage of the travel process. The 'product' they purchase is not simply a conveyance from A to B; it is a multi-faceted experience, one that demands a much larger envelope than many in the business seem able to grasp. Of particular concern is the level of support given to customers whose journey has more than one leg – too many bus stations & railway junctions currently offer primitive or non-existent toilet facilities, and spartan waiting rooms that are restricted in their times of opening. Supervisory staff seem to melt away into the darkness, leading to a heightened sense of vulnerability. Consistently helpful and relevant communications are needed at all times, to assure and to inform, especially in the event of disruption or delay. Customers prefer to hear a real-time announcement from an identifiable individual rather than being subjected to a standardised apology or instruction read from a script, or a recording broadcast at the push of a button.
EA selection of key issues currently riding high on the DHBUG agendas
1) DHBUG has traditionally enjoyed an extremely positive relationship with First Essex Buses. In recent months this has become rather less productive. First failed to field a representative at the recent DHBUG open meeting, and were roundly criticised for this and other recent absences, e.g. from a Maldon gathering organised by ECC for parish transport representatives. It is clear from recent reports to shareholders that the company is currently engaged in a round of significant cost reductions. These include network rationalisation, office centralisation, phasing out cash payments, replacing paper records with electronic accounting systems, plus various economies of scale. Investment is directed towards “regions that genuinely offer a partnership” and vehicles are dispersed accordingly.
2) Reduced availability of printed timetable leaflets/booklets, lack of information at bus stops, problems with display sheets overflowing or slipping within cases. DHBUG committee suspects that ECC officers sign off payments to contractors without independent evidence of fulfilment - presumably because it's cheaper to rely on complaints from (unpaid) members of the public rather than employ an army of (paid) inspectors. DHBUG attempts to rectify major omissions but ECC are understandably not keen on anyone else opening their display cases.
3) The protected area around bus bays is insufficient for long wheelbase vehicles to park parallel to the kerb. This creates problems for the less able-bodied, as does the inability of minibuses with outward opening doors to position themselves against raised curbs. DHBUG thinks that ECC contracts should include a requirement for operators to use vehicles that are able to serve DDA adapted bus stops as installed by Essex Highways.
4) Congestion arising from inconsiderate parking: more enforcement is needed – but by whom? This is persistent drag upon punctuality, particularly in in Maldon High Street but also in Southminster on the corner by the Post Office. A task force is needed to identify and remove a range of hiccoughs and glitches arising at known 'pinch points’, including inadequate signage and conflicting priorities, e.g. at Maldon Promenade Park gates.
5) Ongoing debate as to the best balance between fixed timetables and Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), with particular focus on how to facilitate multi-stage journeys embracing both methodologies. See our 'making connections' paragraph above.
6) How best to service the “first/last mile”. A parallel here with the telephone - it’s close at hand, and offers a common starting point for local, national, and international calls. Similarly, every house needs ready access to viable public transport for many types of journey: perhaps a trip to Burnham Market, or maybe the start of a voyage to the other side of the world. More ‘around town routes’ (such as D4 through Burnham’s Maple Way estate) are needed to reduce distance from nearest bus stops – if people cannot find a bus within a short distance of their home then there is a greatly increased likelihood that they will use private rather than public transport for their entire journey.
7) Ergonomics - improvements are needed to help boost the clarity and elegance of information displays (timetables, network diagrams, “next bus” displays, etc.,). DRT services present a particular challenge: given that journey-planning software requires a series of theoretical departure times linked to a set of notional pick-up points, it is easy to see how information displays can incorrectly give an impression that the service is operating to a fixed-interval timetable.
8) Miscellaneous complaints about driver behaviour - please help us to help you. We cannot make much progress without details such as date & time, location & direction of travel of bus. Even an approximation is better than vague generalisations!
EOther issues sitting on the back burner but not forgottenn
a) We continue to investigate the possibility of some Sunday bus journeys to serve Burnham, but this is tricky without specific and demonstrable proof of un-met demand, i.e. time of day, origin and destination, purpose of journey and regularity of intended use (every Sunday or just now and again?. Maybe some money could be found from the tourism budget? NB these would undoubtedly have to be journeys funded by Essex County Council and not commercial operations. ECC strategy appears to start with the rail network as a ‘given’ and provides a basic bus network to complement (but not duplicate) this. Travellers must therefore be prepared to use both rail and bus to complete their journey – but there is resistance on account of poor connection facilities, the lack of free travel by train, and a lack of ‘rover’ ticket inter-availability (NB the original ECC ‘Sunday Saver’ included branch line rail travel). A well-designed diagram (not a map!) could help promote awareness of public transport.
b) At Riverview Park (Althorne) we have seen a bus stop and shelter become unusable on account of private development. This raises the broader issue of how we protect access to bus stops located beyond the public highway (private estates, schools and hospitals, out-of-town shopping developments, etc.,).
c) We have looked more than once at evening 31B /X departures from Chelmsford. There is a long gap between the 1910 (operated commercially) and the 2215 (funded by ECC). When (2010? 2110?) should we bid for, and to whom? Anecdotal evidence suggests that the 1910 has shed most of its passengers before reaching Burnham. It has been suggested that the 2215 is not quite late enough for those wishing to go to the theatre or some other evening event in Chelmsford.
d) First Bus has given guidance to its drivers concerning the handling of any conflict between wheelchair users and those with baby buggies. This follows a legal challenge that reached the Supreme Court. Should a non-wheelchair user fail to vacate a wheelchair space without good reason, the driver is expected to take further action as appropriate, including rephrasing the request as a requirement. Yet the Court confirmed that drivers have no power to require anyone to get off the bus in order to make space for a wheelchair user. The issue is clearly complex and its ultimate resolution may depend upon a new generation of buses designed to take buggies, shopping trolleys, and wheelchairs, with intelligent system management to ensure minimal delay in supplying a relief vehicle in the event of capacity problems.
e) We continue to seek the involvement of younger people (students and young workers) to encourage more of them to use the bus and to share their technological savvy with the older generations. However, progress is slow – we need a young people’s champion!
f) The X10 Stansted airport service from Basildon & Wickford has attracted favourable comment from our members. In tandem with train from Wickford, this offers a viable evening return route to Burnham and Southminster from Chelmsford. Traffic levels are building but the service still needs more use if it is to survive. Remember that bus concessionary passes are valid for use on the X10 and the X30 airport links.
g) Essex County Council (Highways) says it will press for shelters, raised kerbs and telematic displays wherever there are lots of new homes, the cost to be met by the developer. Is this the best use of resources, given that some of these new sites may not generate a huge amount of bus use (particularly if there is no significant increase in available services within comfortable walking distance)? Detailed terms are set by District Councils and local policies vary from authority to authority. An officer of the County Council has suggested that arrangements work best when developers talk directly to operators and a fully commercial bus service is provided from the outset. DHBUG would like to see developer payments applied not only to the immediate environs of the new site but also to the facilities available to undergird return journeys from the nearest town. This should become easier as we move into the brave new world of CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) but the timescale for this remains unclear.
EOther snippets of news & announcementss
CONCESSIONARY PASSES - a reminder from DHBUG
Most people will already be aware of the national scheme to provide concessionary bus travel for seniors, but what you may not know is that similar help can be available for disabled persons and their carers.
Possible categories of disablement include the following: Visually Impaired / Hearing Impaired / Speech Impaired / Unable to walk / Loss of use of both arms / Learning impairment that has resulted in an arrested state of development before adulthood / Unable to drive for reasons of medical fitness.
A ‘companion pass’ may be issued to those who would not be able to regularly make a journey without requiring assistance from a travelling companion to get on or off the bus, or to find information about the journey (such as a route number or when their stop is). Companion travel may be restricted or disallowed beyond the borders of the administrative county of Essex.
Medical references may be required. Before starting the process of making an application it is recommended that you consult the expert advisers at Essex County Council - their contact number is 0345 200 0388 (charged as a local call from most landlines).
Members and friends of DHBUG are invited to send us items for DHBUG news, also any comments or proposals you’d like the committee to discuss. Also please do let us know if find any broken links from our website.
Please note that all information is displayed in good faith but DHBUG cannot be held liable for any inaccuracies or omissions. Our mailbox is email@example.com – or call us on 0071935157110191– we look forward to hearing from you!