Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Further written evidence the Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company (DBCIC) (BUS 21a)


DBCIC welcomed the original opportunity to submit evidence to the Transport Committee's Inquiry into "Bus Services after the Spending Review" in January. Noting that in its Press Notice of 2 March 2011 the Committee has specifically requested evidence from stakeholders on a number of matters relating to how recent changes to funding for bus provision are affecting—or are likely to affect—local bus service, including consultation DBCIC has prepared this Supplementary Memorandum.

We cover the following topics:

—  1.  Background—the DalesBus Story

—  2.  Implementation of Bus Subsidy Cuts in North Yorkshire

—  3.  The Consultation Process and Results

—  4.  The "Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon" White Paper, Community Transport Funding and Local Sustainable Transport in rural areas

—  5.  The Dales Integrated Transport Alliance proposition

—  6.  Conclusions and Proposals


DBCIC is a social enterprise company founded in 2007 by the Yorkshire Dales Society and the Yorkshire Dales Public Transport Users Group to replace the Sunday bus service between Ilkley and Skipton withdrawn in 2006. It has since taken on management of much of the Sunday and Bank Holiday DalesBus network of bus services within and into the Yorkshire Dales National Park with striking success, introducing additional services, trebling passenger numbers and attracting revenue grants from other stakeholders in both public and private sectors as summarised below. Additionally some seasonal weekday journeys have been operated in 2009 and 2010.

Unfortunately, DBCIC will not receive any revenue funding from North Yorkshire County Council in 2011-12 and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has made clear that it will not be able to afford any funding beyond the current year. There is further uncertainty about the ability of some other funders to support DalesBus in 2011-12 and beyond. Paradoxically, despite the cuts in public funding DBCIC has successfully negotiated with commercial operators to provide additional services and is using its accumulated reserves to operate an even better DalesBus network in 2011-12. After that, the future is grim unless other initiatives promoted by DBCIC and its partners are successful.

The tables on the following page summarise DalesBus funding and performance over the life of the company. Key features are:

—  Doing more with less—the service network has increased each year despite tight control over costs and reductions in funding;

—  "Harvesting" of stakeholder contributions so that the network does not depend solely on service subsidy from the local transport authority. The consequences of the CSR have had a major impact on DBCIC's business plan as discussed further below:

Funding Partners 2009-102010-11 2011-12
Local Transport Authority Stakeholders 221
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Natural England 331
Parish Councils-1 ?
Transport Operators (Northern Rail)1 1?
Environment and Heritage Supporters Groups 31?
Transport Supporters Groups3 2?
Number of Funding Partners12 102+
Total Funding (including reserves 2011-12) £85,250£77,800 £62,500+*
reductions--8.8% -19.7%

*2011-12 funding includes reserves accumulated by the Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company which together with commercial service extensions negotiated with public transport operators have secured an extended network of services in 2011-12.

Change from:
Previous Year 2008-09
Actual 2008-09
Actual 2009-10
Actual 2010-11

—  Patronage more than doubled resulting from detailed service planning and co-ordination with other bus and train services at gateways to the Dales as well as taking account of needs expressed through user and operator stakeholders;

—  Well-targeted marketing and information including interchange and round trip itineraries has increased visitors use of services;

—  Surveys by the VisTrav network based at the University of Central Lancashire suggest that the economic benefits of visitor traffic using the DalesBus network are now worth over £350,000 per year;

Net Cost per
Compared to:
Previous Year (%) "Inherited" (%)
"Inherited" 2007-08

(all paid by North Yorkshire County Council)

Actual 2008-09 (shared by partners)
Actual 2009-10 (shared by partners)
Forecast 2010-11 (shared by partners)*
-30% -63%

— Forecast 2010-11 updated April 2011.

—  Support costs per passenger dropped by almost two thirds to £2.46, still a higher figure than desirable but comparing well with other rural bus services;

—  Support costs are now shared between stakeholders rather than borne by a single transport authority. Importantly those stakeholders include businesses, a local community and user groups that are beneficiaries of the services.


In September 2010, it was announced that North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) would consult on proposals to withdraw subsidy from all evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services in the county from April 2011. The use of concessionary bus passes would then be restricted to after 0930 (in line with the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme) rather than 0900 under the then current local scheme. Subsidy for the weekday 767 Harrogate to Leeds Bradford l Airport service was also withdrawn.

The rationale for this action—apart from the urgent need to save money—was apparently a belief that the primary use of evening and Sunday servicers is for social and leisure purposes. This is misguided as many work trips, particularly by low paid shift workers, take place in the evenings and on Sundays. As pointed out in DBCIC's previous evidence:

"… cutting subsidised services will also have an adverse impact on commercial and indeed other supported services in the area. …..many return journeys will be made in one direction in the daytime when services may be commercial or supported on the basis that daytime services are busier and therefore of greater 'value' than evening or weekend services. If the evening or weekend service is no longer available both legs of the return journey are lost."

Typically in the Dales (and many other rural areas) low paid shift workers are predominantly employed in the caring or hospitality sectors. They may well find difficulty in meeting the running costs of cars but the cars they can afford are often older, less efficient, more polluting and less reliable than modern vehicles. The social costs of cutting evening and Sunday services are likely to be high. Continuing them may not be the best solution but community car schemes, lift sharing or subsidised taxis could be alternatives.

There is no indication that NYCC have examined the costs of the retained daytime subsidised services apart from the 767 Airport service although DBCIC is aware of several cases where costs per passenger are high and usage appears low.

DBCIC believe that:

—  1.  NYCC should have undertaken a more rigorous analysis considering all subsidised services before determining which services to cut;

—  2.  Alternatives should have been explored and the consultation should have allowed the consultees to express their preferences. For example options might have included cutting all services (regardless of period of operation) costing more than a benchmark determined by NYCC in the light of its available budget, or use of cars and taxis at times of low demand;

—  3.  The assumed valuation of evening and weekend services is wrong, certainly socially, probably economically (a number of the services cut brought in useful visitor spending which is likely to be lost to the area) and possibly environmentally.


The NYCC intention to cut all evening and Sunday services was announced concurrently with a consultation survey across the county. This raised expectations, particularly in remote and fragile rural communities, that the cuts might be open to review. DBCIC has had access to the published consultation responses and papers for decision on NYCC's web-site. Together with comments on process these are analysed below with particular reference to DalesBus services.


Although North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) claim to have consulted all directly-affected Parish Councils, they appear only to have consulted Parish Councils through which the routes proposed for cuts passed (presumably this applies to services in other areas too). Some of the omitted Parish Councils in the Dales were however alerted by the Yorkshire Dales Public Transport Users Group (YDPTUG) and have responded.

Category of
Objections to
DalesBus cuts
to Other
Specific cuts
to general
cuts policy
for cuts
Public27084 31%16963% 5922%3 1%
Councils6114 23%5082% 3456%4 7%
Councillors/MPS80 0%450% 338%113%
TOTALS33998 29%22366% 9628%8 2%

N.B. Some objectors cite several areas or services so totals are more than 100%

29% of the comments recorded specifically opposed DalesBus cuts, whilst a further 28% raise general objections to the cuts. 66% commented adversely on the proposals affecting other parts of North Yorkshire. Only 2% express even partial support for the County Council's proposals.

There are a further four responses that recognise that cuts needs to be made, but this does not necessarily imply support for the proposals.

120 (35%) of comments specifically identified problems with work journeys and 40 (12%) with health related travel as a result of the cuts.

Geographical distribution of comments

Looking at the geographical distribution of specific comments, the majority are, as expected, in the most rural and most economically deprived areas—the Dales (including Richmondshire) with 98; the Coast and Moors (Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale) with 118; Selby and Goole (more urban but with low economic activity) 61; Hambleton (principally rural hinterland north of York) 15 and Harrogate (all relating to a single service to Leeds Bradford International Airport seen as necessary for economic development) 6. In other parts of the county the principal services are inter-urban and mainly commercial.

Follow up

A few respondents including the Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company (D&B CIC) offered alternative proposals to achieve the necessary savings. It might have been expected that with only 2% of respondents supporting the policy, 28% objecting to the policy in general and a large number of specific criticisms by respondents there would have been some further consideration and discussion by the County Council. As far as DBCIC is concerned NYCC has made no response to its proposals.

Use of survey results

According to a story in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 14 January 2011, contracts were signed on 8 October 2010, three weeks before the consultation ended on 31 October 2010 for subsidised services in the Richmond Area to commence on 1 April 2011. This perhaps explains the lack of engagement with respondents offering alternatives for consideration. It is unfortunate that having been led to believe that the consultation was an essential part of the decision process representatives of bus users find that they have participated in what can at best be described as a costly but redundant exercise.

Oral evidence

When the Assistant Director of the Integrated Passenger Transport Unit at North Yorkshire County Council was examined by your Committee he appeared to say that because different areas of the county have different characteristics and needs all would opt for the status quo or for cuts elsewhere. In his view it was not possible to produce detailed options for consultation that would enable meaningful comparisons to be made between areas—a sort of "turkeys voting for Christmas" argument. As the Council must make such comparisons itself (or should do so) in determining priorities for its subsidy budget, it is rather patronising that NYCC do not trust the representative organisations and residents that they consult to consider rationally the difficult choices to be made.


The White Paper (subtitled "Making Sustainable Local Transport Happen") was published on 19 January 2011 supported by details of the application process for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. The White Paper contains surprisingly little that is new on bus services, although it does reiterate commitments to smart and integrated ticketing. The Executive Summary states "… it is simply not possible for public transport, walking or cycling to represent a viable alternative to the private car….particularly in rural areas….." and goes on to espouse development of the electric and hybrid vehicle markets which will take time to have maximum impact as the replacement of existing vehicles will take more than a decade, longer in a depressed economic climate.

The Local Sustainable Transport Fund is a welcome stimulus to development of new thinking but it is disappointing that it is a one-off fund expiring in 2015 rather than rolled into the Department's rationalised annual grant streams. This would stimulate transport networks delivering better social and economic performance for the communities served whilst also reducing carbon emissions and other environmental damage.

Apparently as a palliative seeking to overcome some of the damage of the cuts in bus service funding, the Government has made available a substantial injection of funds for Community Transport in 2011-12. Whilst this is welcome it is not entirely clear why the funding should be restricted to community transport rather than available for passenger transport more generally. In some areas Community Transport is well established and the required voluntary input is available. In other parts of the country there is less enthusiasm for volunteering to provide transport services. It is often the case that scheduled bus services can be delivered more cheaply and reliably than dial a ride which has to bear extra costs of dynamic scheduling and control.

There are problems for holders of the English National Concessionary Travel Pass in areas with few bus or eligible community transport services and the Government must address the severe inequalities that arise between users of this benefit in different areas. In many cases the restriction on starting time may save reimbursement costs according to the reimbursement formulae used but in practice the resource costs of permitting travel before 09:30 are nil. Such anomalies need to be addressed in a review challenging whether the "no better, no worse" principle remains fit for purpose, particularly as smart ticketing becomes widely available.

DBCIC believes that a defeatist attitude still pervades both Government and much industry thinking about public transport and that far more needs to be done both in policy and in delivery to develop public transport networks that use the different modes in combination. Integrated solutions are about more than co-ordination of timetables and should be concerned with building partnerships and using the technologies and techniques now available for use smarter travel planning to seek out the best solutions to the complex web of problems facing rural areas. This means trains, buses, community transport, taxis, car clubs and lift sharing all working together to produce the best combination of services with the resources collectively available. For example a worker starting a late shift might travel to work on the daytime bus service but return late at night in a shared taxi. Successful solutions can be seen in Switzerland, or slightly closer to home in the taxi-buses of the Netherlands and Germany.


The Dales Integrated Transport Alliance (DITA) is a grouping established by DBCIC and the Little Red Bus Company (a social enterprise company providing community transport and contracted local bus services established by Harrogate Community transport with an affiliated network across North Yorkshire), local bus and train operators, community and business associations and local authorities. DITA currently has over 50 supporters and plans to become a Co-operative consortium to develop and manage a community-based sustainable integrated passenger transport network for the Dales area. An application has been made for Sustainable Local Transport funding for development and pump priming but in the longer term from 2015 there is a binding target that the network should require no more support in real terms than in 2011-12. DITA believes that in fact greater economies should be possible by drawing into the network vehicles used for education, local authority and health services in both public and private sectors.

The DITA proposition can be summarised as:

—  Pooling of resources from the few providers of commercial bus services in the area, public bodies and beneficiaries of transport services.

—  Development of a core network of mainline bus services, with demand responsive feeder services, replacing the current mix of tendered bus services and separately procured transport services. The network will include scheduled local buses, demand responsive minibuses, shared taxis, car clubs, cycle hire, combined passenger and (in due course) parcel/light goods carriage etc. Co-ordinated service scheduling, procurement and management will enhance service provision whilst reducing costs. Subsidised services will be procured through the transport authorities.

—  Establishment of key transport hubs and gateways that are currently, or can be, served by good quality, relatively fast bus services or rail services to and from key market town/service centres. Potential hubs include Settle, Grassington, Pateley Bridge, Ripon, Leyburn, Hawes and Reeth. Gateways at Skipton, Ilkley, Harrogate and Northallerton and stations on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle and Leeds-Lancaster/Morecambe railways are important.

—  Walking and Cycling development, particularly for recreational use as the distances between settlements, road network and climate of the Dales are not conducive to significant expansion of use of the "active modes" by residents. Commercial opportunities exist for businesses such as cycle hire.

—  Building Local Sustainable Transport Partnerships based on the hubs comprising representatives from local communities, local businesses (especially those with tourism interests), parish councils, GP practices, social services, local schools and regular bus users. These would help ensure that solutions meet local needs, giving local communities a powerful voice and real ownership of their transport provision. Each local transport partnership would also undertake local marketing activity.

This approach would utilise unique local third-sector capabilities, including:

—  The Little Red Bus' computerised scheduling system and call-centre facilities in Harrogate, to be built on to provide a comprehensive brokerage service including the provision of demand-responsive transport (whether Community Buses, taxis or other car based services), lift sharing and community car club bookings as well as providing personalised journey planning advice.

—  Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company's expertise in planning and marketing bus services to appeal to both local residents and visitors to the area.


Based on the less than satisfactory experience with the withdrawal of subsidies from all evening and Sunday bus services in North Yorkshire, DBCIC suggests the following:

—  1.  Transparent criteria for the support of "socially necessary" bus services should be drawn up and published by all local transport authorities. Some authorities already have these.

—  2.  The Department for Transport should investigate existing practices for support of subsidised bus services and publish its findings in a good practice guide.

—  3.  Where consultation is undertaken it should genuinely be used to inform decision making and avoid raising expectations in an already fragile market.

—  On more general points relating to public transport and sustainability:

—  4.  Community transport and other shared modes including taxis, car clubs and lift giving are complements to, not direct substitutes for, bus services. Integrated networks should be promoted.

—  5.  The principles of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund are good and should be rolled into the rationalised funding streams of the Department for Transport.

—  6.  An independent review of the types of service on which English National Concessionary Travel passes can be used and of the basis of reimbursement under the scheme to remove inequalities between different types of area should be commissioned by the Government.

The DITA proposition is a new approach to community based development and management of local passenger transport services. DBCIC hope that it will receive Sustainable Local Transport Fund grant to enable its opportunities and practicality to be tested as a potential model for wider application.

June 2011

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