Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Eastleigh BC (Bus 17)



  1.  Eastleigh Borough Council recognises that the Government is committed to improving public transport. The Council acknowledges that significant levels of capital funding are being made available to support infrastructure improvements within the bus and rail industry over the life of the Ten Year Transport Plan. There remains however, a significant level of concern that the need for increases in revenue funding, both for infrastructure maintenance and more importantly subsidies for local bus services, is being ignored.

  2.  Investing capital in improving roadside infrastructure (eg bus stops, shelters, passenger interchanges and timetable information) and providing bus priority measures may well promote a mode shift and increase in patronage levels in the medium to longer term. However, in the more immediate short term, certainly in the Borough of Eastleigh, commercial services alone are not providing the comprehensive route and timetable network, with buses running at times and to the right destinations, required to meet the needs of the local community, particularly those residents who have a car available as the easy alternative.

  3.  This situation will be made worse in the Borough of Eastleigh when the principal local bus operator publishes its summer 2002 timetable in which one key local service is being withdrawn completely and another is suffering service level cuts from one bus every 20 minutes to one bus every half hour. The withdrawal of the service 41 is particularly discouraging as this in one of three local routes included in the Eastleigh Area Quality Bus Partnership.

  4.  Hampshire County Council provides subsidies for local services. However, Eastleigh Borough Council has recognised a need for additional evening and Sunday services that would not be operated commercially, and which do not meet the County Council's criterion for subsidy, and as a result allocates in excess of £100,000 annually to extend County Council contracts and to provide directly subsidised services. Despite the efforts of both local authorities the network of subsidised services, which is designed to fill gaps left by commercial services, does not provide a bus service network that really provides an attractive alternative to the car. Nor does the combination of these commercial and subsidised services provide enough buses to reduce social exclusion to those members of the community who do not have access to a car.

  5.  Again the situation regarding socially necessary subsidised bus services in the Borough of Eastleigh will become worse in May following a £400,000 cut in County Council bus subsidies county wide. Some £10,000 of these cuts will affect local services Eastleigh.

  6.  I would suggest that in terms of delivering improved public transport services we are in a chicken and egg situation. Demand has not yet grown sufficiently to justify additional commercial services so as to provide a comprehensive bus network or timetable in a semi urban area such as the Borough of Eastleigh. I am sure that a similar situation exists in other non urban boroughs and districts around the country. We don't all have the critical mass of cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester.

  7.  In conclusion I would suggest that there is an immediate need for more buses running more often for longer periods to build up passenger confidence. This should happen in parallel to providing bus priority measures and roadside infrastructure improvements. It may be that in the medium to long term patronage levels will increase sufficiently to reduce the need for subsidies but in the meantime the Government should look to allocate increased revenue funding to public transport as well as capital investment. If no additional funds are available then I would suggest that the "rules of engagement" for the use of Local Transport Plan funding should be relaxed so that monies may be used for revenue support as well as capital works. The fact that LTP funding is in theory available over a five year time frame would enable revenue support to be maintained over a sufficient period to develop patronage levels.

Rhod MacLeod

Transport Policy Manager

April 2002

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