Essex County Council has today, Wednesday 19 December, launched a consultation to find out more about how important evening and Sunday local bus services are to the county's residents and to ask them for their views on some proposed changes to how those services are delivered.
With low passenger numbers on some services, the County Council is looking again at the way it supports local bus services on evenings and Sundays.
Around 85% of the bus network in Essex is run commercially; this includes most of the daytime and peak period services in and between towns. These services will not form part of this consultation.
The remaining 15% of services are not commercially viable and are subsidised by the County Council; this means that the commercial bus operators will not run them. These non-commercial services mainly operate in rural areas and at less popular times for travel, such as in the evenings and on Sundays. The supported and evening services (buses that operate after 10pm) are the ones that are being reviewed. In particular we are reviewing supported services that run after 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on Saturdays; and on Sundays reviewing services that run after 7pm and run more frequently than two hourly.
The consultation also looks at how we might develop the right type of service to meet the travel needs of residents and visitors by making more use of a wider variety of ways for providing services, such as smaller vehicles, 'demand responsive' transport or taxi-buses.
Residents will also be asked their views on giving local communities and their representatives at district, town and parish level the opportunity and funding to commission local bus services in their area, based on their understanding of local needs and where this can be done more cost effectively.
Cabinet Member, Cllr Ray Gooding said: “We have a strong record of supporting local bus services particularly in comparison with other local transport authorities who have significantly reduced the level of support that they offer."
“At present we spend around £9m of taxpayers money on these services each year. However with the number of passengers in some cases falling below six per journey, coupled with the strong financial pressure on all local government funding, means that we have to look very carefully at how we provide our services to ensure that the limited funding available is focused where it will do most good and where the local communities need it."
“We know that buses are important to many people. The consultation is the opportunity to have your say on our proposals. It's imperative if you have any comments or concerns to include these within the consultation, all of which we will consider."
Essex County Council has made £750million of savings since 2010 and continued financial pressure means that unless we unless we change, reform and re-invent services, they will stop keeping pace with what people need and we will not succeed in delivering for our county.
This means that, alongside those services which we retain and continue to invest in, or invest even more in than in previous years, some will change and some will no longer be provided in the way they are now.
The consultation launches at 12noon today, Wednesday 19 December 2018 and runs until 22 March 2019.
The consultation can be accessed at www.essex.gov.uk/local-bus-consultation
Paper versions are also available to collect from all libraries and on request.
Residents can also complete the consultation over the phone by calling 03457 430 430 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.