Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Annex 4

PATRONAGE RE-APPRAISAL

  A4.1  During April 1996, even though this was before a full year of the whole system being opened, it was clear that the original forecast patronage would not be attained and the transport consultants MVA were commissioned to carry out a re-appraisal seeking to explain the differences. Key factors examined by MVA were: changes in public transport patronage in the Supertram corridors, actual frequencies, journey times and fares for Supertram compared to the original assumptions, the level of competitive bus activity and provision for Park & Ride and an assessment of new developments.

  A4.2  At the time of the re-appraisal, in the first full year of operation, 6.6 million passenger journeys took place. An analysis of bus patronage in the Supertram corridors showed that between 1987 and 1994, patronage was less than 60 per cent of the 1987 levels compared to 80 per cent for Sheffield as a whole. This decline was a particularly significant factor in the lower Supertram patronage as there was an expectation of transfer from bus. Also during this period, the city centre economy was in decline through a process of de-centralisation with the city centre losing jobs to the suburbs and edge of town developments.

  A4.3  Examination of the competitive bus activity under deregulation also showed a very different picture (to that expected). For example, between Hillsborough and the city centre, forecast assumption expected there to be eight buses per hour and 12 trams per hour, whereas the actual position was 35 buses per hour. Similarly, on other sections, particularly to the south-east of the city centre, bus frequencies per hour exceeded those expected.

  A4.4  Initial Supertram operations were characterised by extended journey times (up to 30 per cent slower than expected) and poor punctuality, as not all the priority measures had been introduced by the Highways Authority (SCC) and trams were held up in congestion. It was also expected that the quality of service provided by Supertram would enable a premium fare to be charged and this was initially applied with premium fares from 25 per cent-45 per cent higher than the equivalent bus fare. It was clear that the market was unwilling to pay for a service not perceived as offering reliability.

  A4.5  Within the project budget, no provision was made for funding Park & Ride (P&R), the expectation from the DoT during the project appraisal being that the P&R would be provided on a commercial basis by car park operators. This was clearly not the case and, therefore, on initial opening, patronage targets from P&R were not being met. However, since opening and funding through the annual package bid settlement, P&R has now been provided at four sites attracting some 900 P&R users daily.

  A4.6  Overall, the MVA re-appraisal explained a large part of the patronage shortfall. This was due to decline in bus routes (24 per cent), competitive buses (12 per cent), Supertram frequencies and fares (19 per cent), P&R and new developments (8 per cent). Six per cent of the patronage shortfall could not be explained.

  A4.7  MVA recommended a number of measures including improvements to journey time and reliability, a more flexible fare structure including integrating bus and tram fares, promoting and developing P&R and improvements to market Supertram. The re-appraisal suggested that when the recommendations could be implemented, potential patronage may be in the range of 13 million-15 million passenger journeys annually. Many of these recommendations have been implemented and patronage has improved, although not yet to the level forecast by MVA in their re-appraisal.

October 1999


 
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