Agenda and draft minutes

Select Committee - Bus Transport and Public Subsidy - Monday, 10th October, 2016 2.00 pm

Venue: Swale 2, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Denise Fitch/Gaetano Romagnuolo  03000 416090/ 416624

Note No. Item

2.00 - 2.45pm


Phil Lightowler - Head of Public Transport, Kent County Council pdf icon PDF 44 KB

Additional documents:


Phil Lightowler (Head of Public Transport, Kent County Council) was in attendance for this item.


The Chairman welcomed Mr Lightowler back to the Committee.  Mr Lightowler had originally given evidence to the Committee on 27 September but Members had requested an additional session with him to continue their discussion around Kent Supported Services.  Mr Lightowler explained the criteria around providing funding to support non-commercial bus services which were deemed to be socially necessary. 


Q – Given the changes in demographics in Kent how long did the supported services contracts run for?


A - Mr Lightowler confirmed that the supported services contracts were for 4 years, Members may wish to look more closely at reviewing the criteria process once funding had been provided for support services; Mr Lightowler confirmed that it was possible to terminate contracts with 90 days’ notice.  It was considered that there could be a panel that looked on an annual basis at competing demands for supported services and to determine whether KCC was getting the same service as in previous years.  One Member suggested that it was possible that KCC was providing services out of habit rather than need if there was no review mechanism. 


Q – Was it likely that bus companies were making routes seem uneconomical so that KCC would step in and fund them


A -   Mr Lightowler confirmed that he did not believe that there was an perverse incentive, bus companies could be thought of as retailers running their services in the way they thought best.  One Member did not agree with the description of bus operators being like retailers because there was no option available for the public.  In addition if the bus operators were running at a loss they would tell KCC so there was bias towards the busier more profitable services. 


Mr Lightowler explained that 68million journeys were undertaken across Kent and Medway each year, Kent and Medway had an extremely busy bus network which dwarfed Essex and Thurrock.  Members requested that they be involved in discussions/proposals to cut services and a Member asked how many rural services had been cut from weekly to no service, daily to no service or daily to 2-3 times per week.  Mr Lightowler agreed that communication was key, and he would use email to inform and discuss with Members.  During Mr Lightowler’s time at KCC only one bus route had been physically cut. 


Q – Was it possible to run buses to different villages on alternative days of the week only on routes where part of the journey was empty?


A – Mr Lightowler confirmed that there was scope to undertake different routes on different days. 


Mr Lightowler explained that within the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) each journey was recorded and the information was sent off to MCL Transport Consultants Ltd for analysis.  It was expected that 16.9million journeys would be made under the ENCTS in the next financial year at a cost of 97.98pence per journey regardless of distance –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.

3.00 - 3.45pm


Norman Kemp, Co-Owner of Nu-Venture bus company and Chair of the Kent & Medway branch of the Confederation of Passenger Transport pdf icon PDF 48 KB

Additional documents:


Norman Kemp (Co-Owner of Nu-Venture bus company and Chair of the Kent and Medway branch of the Confederation of Passenger Transport) was in attendance for this item.


The Chairman welcomed Mr Kemp to the Committee.  Mr Kemp was the co-owner of Nu-Venture, a local bus company based in Aylesford.  Nu-Venture employed 50 people and ran 25 buses substantially in Kent but also in Medway.  The bus services operated were a mixture of commercial and tendered.  The Kent and Medway branch of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which Mr Kemp chaired, met regularly to discuss matters such as legislative changes and technical innovation and to discuss the big issues (such as an increase in fuel price for example). 


Q -  Would Mr Kemp expect an increase in fares with an increase in fuel costs and vice versa, a decrease in fares with a decrease in fuel costs?


A – Mr Kemp explained that he would take a long term view of costs, many operators were at the smaller end of the market but also provided by people who were closer to the ‘ground’.   The bus service was a strictly regulated environment with skills necessary in many areas, it was necessary for bus companies to listen and lobby in order to put their case forward. 


Q – What are the effects of traffic congestion on bus reliability?


A – traffic congestion was a huge problem for bus operators, recent issues with road works in Tunbridge Wells had proved extremely difficult and the Grammar School system in Kent meant that buses were carrying students large distances to school.  If the buses were not able to run to time the operators would either have to reduce the service or use additional resources.   When asked whether there was anything KCC could do to ease congestion on Kent’s roads Mr Kemp explained that he understood the difficulties and the road networks were working at full capacity.  Communication was vital and it was important for Members and residents to know who their bus providers were.


Q – What does your fleet consist of?


A – Nu-Venture operated a mixed fleet of mainly elderly buses and double deckers.  The disability rules which were coming into effect in January 2017 would mean that many of the double deckers could no longer be used. 


Mr Kemp explained that Nu-Venture was alert to the small changes in passenger flows, the Kent population was changing rapidly and an incoming population was bringing more mobile families with children.  In some areas some of the older bus routes were no longer needed because the demographics were changing, with these changes the idea of serving communities with bus services less regularly but still providing them with a service was appealing.  In many areas the school routes distorted the picture of bus travel, the market had changed largely due to the school traffic. 


As a small company Nu-Venture was excluded from Quality Bus Partnerships (QBPs) and Mr Kemp would like to be involved in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

4.00 - 4.45pm


Anne Clark, Managing Director of MCL Transport Consultant pdf icon PDF 44 KB

Additional documents:


Anne Clark (Managing Director of MCL Transport Consultants was in attendance for this item.


The Chairman welcomed Mrs Clark to the Committee.  Mrs Clark was the Managing Director of MCL Transport Consultants Ltd, which specialised in financial systems, concessionary travel schemes administration, smart ticketing projects and E-purse apportionment. 


Mrs Clark’s presentation had been circulated to Select Committee Members prior to the meeting and she used the presentation to explain how the Kent County Concessionary Travel Scheme worked.  Mrs Clark’s presentation can be found via this link and Mrs Clark pointed Members to some facts about MCL including the 14 English National Concessionary Travel Schemes (ENCTS) which MCL administered. 


Mrs Clark was an accountant and an ex bus operator, KCC was MCL’s client but it was necessary to understand the various issues from the point of view of KCC and the bus operators. 


Mrs Clark talked Members through the principles of reimbursement, pages 19 – 24 of the presentation. 


Q – How was it possible to determine the original number of passengers and how many passengers have been ‘generated’?


A – Mrs Clark explained that the Department for Transport (DfT) had produced a calculator to work out how many passengers were generated.  The calculator was based on fare increases but it was accepted that it was impossible to know precisely how many passengers were actually generated, but the principles of the Calculator were accepted by all parties.


Q – With regards to additional buses with additional capacity what cost was this to KCC and how could KCC be sure this was not duplicated between ENCTS and YPTP?


A – Mr Lightowler explained that KCC would look at the data over the summer in order to schedule YPTP and supported services and any services receiving additional costs paid in respect of YPTP would not be considered for additional ENCTS payments.   Mrs Clark explained that, apart from additional costs, it was necessary to look at Young Persons Travel Pass (YPTP) and 16+ separately to ENCTS as operator reimbursement used different methods. 


Mrs Clark referred members to page 28 of her presentation, which illustrated some of the checks that were applied to operator data - non-acceptable journeys took place outside 09.30hours and 23:00hours or were journeys outside Kent. 


Mrs Clark talked Members through pages 36 – 38 of the presentation, this being marginal capacity costs where operators were likely to maximise total reimbursement with local values.  The length of journey was the mean journey length (identified by operator) and this was checked to see if it was reasonable.  There was no option other than to use the calculator provided by the DfT with all services being included by the operator to avoid “cherry picking”. 


Q – How many bus operators received the default costs provided by MCL?


It was generally accepted by the smaller bus operators that it was too time consuming and costly to challenge the default values.  It was mainly the larger bus groups who could afford to provide their own  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

5.00 - 5.45pm


KYCC Transport Committee representatives, accompanied by Sadie Williams, Youth Participation Worker, Kent County Council pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Additional documents:


Arpana Rai (Member, KYCC Transport Committee), Charlotte Swaine (Member, KYCC Transport Committee), Claude Evele (Vice Chair, KYCC Transport Committee), Joseph Horsnell (Chair, KYCC Transport Committee) and Sadie Williams (Youth Participation Worker, Kent County Council) were in attendance for this item.

The Chairman welcomed the guests to the Committee. Sadie began by introducing the representatives of the KYCC Transport Committee: Claude (Vice Chair), Joseph (Chair), Charlotte and Arpana.

Joseph detailed the recent work of the KYCC Transport Committee. The Committee had collected research through its Travel Information Collection Survey and developed case studies as supporting evidence.  The Committee had met with public transport companies including Arriva, Nu Venture, Stagecoach and Southeastern who had provided them with positive feedback about their research.  The Committee had circulated a presentation about behaviour on public transport to all Year 6 students before they started secondary school; an evaluation would be completed to measure its success. The Committee had contributed to the establishment of the Young Persons Travel Card and had raised concerns about the cost of the card. The Committee was also promoting green travel particularly cycling; a z card on cycling safety information had been produced.

Q – What are the key targets of the Committee?

A - Joseph explained that the Committee’s role was to voice the concerns raised by their electorate. He noted that transport was voted every year as a campaign of the KYCC and it was an area that young people felt passionate about.

Q – Respondents to your survey highlight that public transport services, particularly school services, are often late. Does this just happen in September or is it all year round?

Arpana explained that there were constant delays throughout the school year due to traffic. She stated that difficulties in getting to school impacted negatively on students’ motivation at school. She highlighted that some recipients were also concerned about the safety and maintenance of the vehicles being used by the bus companies as there had been incidences of buses catching fire.

Q – Are schools understanding when students arrive late at school due to public transport?

A – Joseph explained that it varied between schools. He stated that his school was very strict and students were penalised for being late despite it being out of their control.  Claude noted at his school, they were aware of the problematic routes and students were penalised for being late. He reported that there was a bus from Chartham to Canterbury where students were regularly late three times a week and did not arrive until the second lesson.

Q – What prevents young people travelling to school by bike?

A – Joseph explained that it was not the distance or bike storage facilities that prevented young people from cycling to school; it was that young people did not feel safe on the roads. He stated that motorists did not respect young cyclists and there were not enough cycle lanes for young cyclists to use.

Q – Is the Transport Committee aware  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.