Memorandum by Lincolnshire County Council
THE BUS INDUSTRY
1. As Head of Transport Services for Lincolnshire
County Council, I lead an integrated transport unit responsible
for developing and implementing public transport policy and projects,
and procuring passenger and fleet transport for the Council as
a whole. This includes the procurement of local bus services,
home to school transport, special educational needs transport,
social services transport, and community transport. The unit was
established 10 years ago and was the second of its kind to be
introduced in the country.
2. In recent years the Council has established
itself as one of the leading local authorities in addressing rural
social exclusion through its pioneering rural "InterConnect"
bus project and other rural transport initiatives.
3. In response to the Sub-Committee's invitation
to submit evidence for its inquiry into the bus industry, this
memorandum addresses the terms of reference from the perspective
of a rural authority. The evidence covers the following areas:
Contextual background information
Trends in bus use, costs and subsidies;
Lincolnshire's rural bus initiative
"InterConnect", its outcomes and lessons learnt;
Quality Bus Partnerships and Quality
Regulation of the bus industry.
4. Lincolnshire has a population of 630,000
with a settlement pattern based predominantly on market towns
with each acting as a strong focus for the surrounding deeper
rural communities. One-third of the population lives in settlements
of less than 3,000 people. The population density is one-quarter
of the national average.
5. There is a high dependency on private
car travel in rural Lincolnshire which is reflected in a high
household car ownership of 82 per cent compared to an average
for the whole of Lincolnshire of 75 per cent and the national
average of 67 per cent (1991 Census). In large parts of the county
high car ownership is seen as a necessity and not an indication
6. Whilst there is a surprisingly large
network of bus services across the county, the levels of frequency
are low with limited opportunities in terms of timing and destination
to meet many of the needs of rural dwellers. Four years ago, the
County Council commissioned transport consultants, Steer Davies
Gleave, to apply its "Sonata" software package to measure
the level and proportion of travel needs which were not being
met by the public transport network see (Appendix 1). The analysis
showed that overall 19 per cent of travel needs were not being
7. The Government's Ten Year Plan has set
a target for a 30 per cent increase in the proportion of rural
households living within a 10 minute walk of an hourly bus service.
The map attached as Appendix 2 shows that the pattern of hourly
bus and rail routes in Lincolnshire is extremely limited.
8. Even so, because of the pattern of settlement
along the interurban corridors, currently 49 per cent of households
have access to an hourly service. This however leaves swathes
of the county where it is unrealistic and difficult to justify
such a level of direct provision. Table 1 below shows the breakdown
by size of community.
PROPORTION OF HOUSEHOLDS WITHIN A 10 MINUTE
WALK OF AN HOURLY SERVICE
|Rural settlement size by population range
|Population with hourly service at March 2002
|Per cent of rural population||25 per cent
||37 per cent||83 per cent
||49 per cent|
9. DLTR returns from local bus operators in Lincolnshire
since 1987/88 (see Figure 1) show that, following a severe drop
in bus use in the late 1980s and a relatively stable period during
the 1990s, there is evidence of an encouraging increase in ridership
in the period since the Government's substantial injection of
funding to support additional rural bus services in 1998, to the
extent that bus use has now recovered to the position it was 13
10. There is no doubt this growth is in danger of being
jeopardised by the impact of rising transport costs. In Lincolnshire,
we are witnessing some major cuts in commercial services as illustrated
by the withdrawal and service reductions by Lincolnshire Road
Car affecting roundly 40 services in and around Lincoln on 15
April 2002. The cost to the County Council in replacing these
with subsidised services is £100,000 per annum. Given that
85-90 per cent of services in the county are run commercially,
the impact of a small change in the commercial network can have
a proportionally much greater demand on subsidy requirements.
Inevitably the ability of the County Council to maintain services
in the light of these rising costs will be constrained by budget
11. The level of subsidy paid by the County Council to
operators both from its own resources and from Rural Bus Subsidy
Grant in recent years is shown in Figure 2. The Council procures
a large number of local bus services on which schoolchildren entitled
by statute to "free home to school" transport are carried.
The cost of carrying these pupils is recovered from the Education
Committee budget and therefore the "LCC net subsidy"
shown in the figure is the gross cost of contracts less this recharge.
The use of net subsidy reflects better the level of subsidy paid
to maintain bus services for the community at large. The average
subsidy per passenger paid in 2001-02 was £1.02 for LCC supported
services and £2.52 for RBG services.
12. Although the County Council has increased its expenditure
on local bus services by 28 per cent over the past four years,
the chart emphasises the importance of Rural Bus Grant in terms
of overall scale of subsidy. Increasingly the Council is targeting
RBG at its rural bus initiatives rather than providing ad hoc
support of individual services. In the last financial year, 44
per cent of RBG was spent in support of the Council's "InterConnect"
project, described below, and its market town quality network
project. RBG is extremely important in sustaining such rural transport
initiatives, many of which were established initially with Rural
Bus Challenge funding.
13. Increasing pressure is being placed on the subsidy
budget because of rising tender prices. The cost of local bus
contracts renewed in the 12 months to 30 September 2001 increased
by 26 per cent equivalent to £30,000. Additionally £100,000
was spent in the same period to replace commercial services withdrawn
14. The change in the conditions for use of Rural Bus
Grant introduced by Government a year ago now permits local authorities
to use a maximum of 20 per cent of the grant to support existing
services. In the financial year 2001-02, the County Council used
6 per cent of the grant for this purpose but in order to maintain
commercial services being withdrawn by operators, such as those
made recently in Lincoln (paragraph 10 refers), it is anticipated
that the full allowance will be needed in 2002-03 to avoid a loss
of existing services. This will have a consequential impact on
the amount of RBG which can be allocated to InterConnect and other
15. The County Council applies selection criteria to
determine whether a service should be subsidised with each service
scored in terms of the following:
passengers per journey;
main purpose of the service with a higher weighting
given to work, education and health.
Those services reaching a specified threshold are supported.
All local bus contracts are reviewed from time to time.
16. In 1998 the County Council adopted a strategy aimed
at addressing social exclusion in rural areas. The essential planks
of this strategy are:
To work with bus operators to strengthen and create
a strong commercial "primary" interurban network with
a minimum hourly service using quality low floor buses (see Appendix
To channel demands from the wider rural areas
into key points on the primary network where passengers can connect
through convenient and managed interchange with the interurban
To provide quality infrastructure at stops and
interchange points to provide a high level of accessibility and
To provide access to quality information in the
home and at stops.
17. Success in the first round of Rural Bus Challenge
enabled the strategy to be trialled on the Lincoln-Skegness route
with additional funding secured from the Countryside Agency and
the European Union. Introduced in February 1999 and branded as
"InterConnect", the existing commercial service of six
journeys daily in each direction using conventional double deckers
was increased to hourly, with alternate journeys being operated
with low floor single saloons. The service was extended to run
in the evenings and on Sundays.
18. Twelve new feeder services were introduced with Rural
Bus Grant subsidy at three interchange points on the route with
passengers able to book through fares between any two points on
the network at a 20 per cent discount on the sum of fares charged
on the individual legs.
19. A contract was let to one operator to manage connections
whereby drivers experiencing any delays telephone the "connections
manager" who has the authority to act on behalf of all operators
to delay a connecting bus or arrange for a taxi to enable a passenger
to get home.
20. Raised kerbs have been built to ensure each village
on the interurban route has at least one pair of accessible stops.
New specially designed wooden shelters have been built in villages
and architect-designed waiting facilities provided at the interchange
points fitted with CCTV and information systems.
21. Stops with information of times of services on the
whole network together with a network map have been erected at
over 100 locations, many of which were not even marked as stops
previously. Real time information is provided at key stops on
the interurban route.
22. The use of the Lincoln-Skegness Connect 6 service
has more than doubled since its introduction as shown in Figure
3, equivalent to an additional 165,000 passengers per annum. Whilst
during the first two years the enhanced service was heavily subsidised,
the core part of the day between 7am and 7pm is now run commercially
by Lincolnshire Road Car; the evening and Sunday service is maintained
at a cost of £40,000 per annum at a subsidy per passenger
of £2.25. Lincolnshire Road Car has since replaced the three
low floor saloons with low floor double deckers, and is shortly
to replace the three conventional deckers with new floor deckers,
demonstrating its commitment to the concept.
23. In March 2001 the fixed route feeder services were
replaced by demand responsive services pre-booked by telephone:
CallConnect semi-fixed route services using 16
seater tail-lift buses linking local service centres;
CallConnect Plus fully flexible eight seater buses
with ramp serving an area of about six or seven miles around two
of the interchange points.
24. Ridership on the feeder services grew by 25 per cent
in the second year of the project compared to the first year of
their operation. Further growth has been experienced since the
introduction of the CallConnect Plus services a year ago as shown
in Figure 4.
25. The introduction of CallConnect Plus has resulted
in the level of unmet travel needs in the project area, as measured
by Sonata (see paragraph 6) being reduced by 90 per cent. Passenger
feedback has been excellent as reflected in the extract from a
recent radio broadcast contained in Appendix 4.
26. CallConnect Plus services ensure that every person
living within their operating areas now has access to an hourly
service, albeit by pre-booking and, whilst this does not conform
strictly to the definition of the target for rural services contained
in the Government's Ten Year Plan, it is a more realistic target
for a deeply rural area.
27. The lower costs of operating eight-seater buses make
this type of operation much more affordable for the level of service
provided than conventional services, though the low volume of
passengers generated from a deeply rural area means that the subsidy
per passenger is always going to be high. The average subsidy
per passenger journey on the two CallConnect Plus buses is estimated
to be round £5.40. Unlike other local bus services, demand
responsive services are not eligible for fuel duty rebate (see
paragraph 35 below) but, if they had been eligible, the subsidy
per passenger would reduce to £4.40. The relatively high
subsidy for this type of service needs to be seen in the context
of the project as a whole which has seen bus use doubled and almost
all previously unmet travel needs satisfied.
28. Success in subsequent rounds of Rural Bus Challenge,
with over £4 million gained, has enabled the InterConnect
concept to be extended to other corridors in partnership with
three different operators each providing the core interurban service
commercially. By November a total of seven CallConnect Plus services,
all subsidised using Rural Bus Grant will be operating on the
four InterConnect corridors. As noted in paragraph 12 above, these
services could not be sustained without continuation of Rural
29. Passenger bookings are managed through another Rural
Bus Challenge funded project called "Matrix". Using
Mobisoft's software, bookings are made and sent in text format
direct to the driver's cab in the CallConnect bus. Matrix is also
to be used for managing bookings on a rural car club and five
dial-a-ride services to be introduced shortly.
30. Implementation of the InterConnect project has provided
the following lessons:
A major sea change in use and attitudes to bus
services can be made by addressing within a comprehensive strategy
all barriers deterring bus travel;
Co-operation with the operators of the interurban
services has been vital to ensure that the network functions in
an integrated way;
Demand responsive services can be highly effective
in reducing unmet travel needs and thereby addressing rural social
Importance of strong branding, marketing and availability
of quality information;
Stable timetables giving passengers confidence
that they can rely on buses;
Investment in quality buses and infrastructure;
Importance of Rural Bus Grant in sustaining CallConnect
services in the longer term.
31. Statutory quality bus partnerships have little application
in a rural area such as Lincolnshire. The levels of investment
by local operators are modest which is not surprising given the
operating territory and it is unlikely that a QBP in itself would
be sufficient to influence investment over and above that already
planned by a company, though it may well influence where such
investment is directed.
32. From the local authorities' perspective, commitments
by an operator to levels of service are equally important because
of the risk of subsequent reductions in service after the local
authority has made its investment in infrastructure and priority
33. The voluntary partnerships in place to deliver InterConnect
are more about co-operation between operators to ensure that connections
are made and integrated ticketing offered across the network.
In all cases, the County Council is required to subsidise evening
and Sunday services outside the core daytime operating periods.
Quality Bus Contracts would have a part to play if such co-operation
was not forthcoming.
34. The InterConnect project has highlighted a number
of regulatory issues which have hindered the implementation of
the project relating to:
Fuel duty rebate for demand responsive services;
Bus service registration process for demand responsive
Service frequency enhancements to commercial services.
35. Demand responsive services are ineligible for fuel
duty rebate which, given that the services are subsidised using
Rural Bus Grant, means the grant cannot be utilised to the same
extent as it could be otherwise. As noted in paragraph 27, the
fuel duty rebate foregone on CallConnect Plus services is equivalent
to £1 subsidy per passenger.
36. The bus registration process does not enable fully
flexible demand responsive services such as CallConnect Plus to
be registered easily because of the need to define a route and
timing points, and the introduction of CallConnect Plus could
not have been achieved without the co-operation of the Traffic
Commissioner for Eastern England.
37. The provisions of the Transport Act 1985 on competitive
tendering prohibit a local authority from negotiating with an
operator for an enhancement to a service, except up to a prescribed
subsidy level. This creates a problem particularly on the primary
InterConnect routes and in the market towns where the County Council
would wish to see a relaxation in this requirement within the
framework of a quality partnership entered into with the incumbent
Head of Transport Services, Lincolnshire County Council
11 April 2002
TUESDAY 9 APRIL 20027.50AM
Success for CallConnectInterview with Tony Cross,
Head of Transport Services
William Wright: It seems that Lincolnshire's bus services
are in huge demand at the moment. The County's CallConnect bus
system is so popular that some customers are having to book their
seats a fortnight in advance. Claire Crooks has put together this
Claire Crooks: InterConnect was introduced three years ago
as a way of servicing the wider rural areas, allowing people to
access the local facilities in places like Horncastle. It also
links up to the main route bus services to the larger towns and
cities. Head of Transport Services, Tony Cross:
Tony Cross: A year ago we introduced what we call CallConnect,
CallConnect Plus, and these are fully flexible services which
people pre-book in advance by telephone, a bus picks them up in
their locality and then brings them into Horncastle. It operates
every hour, always meets the bus to Lincoln and Skegness and is
proving to be very popular, to the point now where people are
having to book further and further ahead and we are giving consideration
to introducing another bus into the system.
Claire Crooks: Customers of the CallConnect bus service are
very satisfied and would like to see it advertised better and
Customer 1: Oh it's brilliant. I couldn't even get in to
shop without it. I don't drive any more and I've got no relatives
here to pick me up and take me in, you know. Oh no, it's brilliant.
Customer 2: It's fantastic, yes. It's very handy.
Customer 3: We live up the top of Mareham Hill and have difficulty
sometimes getting back up the hill.
Customer 4: Finding out how to use itit's not advertised
very well and people are not aware of what service exists. But
once you are aware of it and how you can use it, it works very
Customer 5: My husband went and died suddenly and he took
the transport with him you see, so I'm in a bit of a fix, so it's
nice to know I can call on you and everybody's so pleasantthat's
what's so nice.
Transcribed by Lincolnshire County Council's Public Relations