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Paper 7 - 24 September 1999 Meeting 

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND

ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

24 September 1999

REVIEW OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT POLICIES IN HAMPSHIRE

Report of the County Surveyor, Hampshire County Council

SUMMARY

This report considers the arrangements for the forthcoming review of the County Council's Public Transport Policies and for the consideration of longer-term issues surrounding the funding of public transport services.

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 On 29 January 1999 the Association considered a report on the role of the County Council in securing local bus services. That report referred to a planned review of the County Council's policy objectives for public transport, and in particular the support of local bus services. It was agreed that there would be consultation between County and Districts on this issue within the guidelines of the working protocol agreed in November 1998. The process of review has now been planned in more detail and this report sets out that process and the planned involvement of district councils and other parties, such as the city councils.

2. BACKGROUND

2.1 The County Council is required by the Transport Act 1985 to produce a statement of its public transport policies, reviewed from time to time in consultation with interested parties. The last major review took place at the time of deregulation of bus services and although there have been some changes since then, to reflect rail privatisation for example, the current policy emphasis remains to seek to maintain the bus network at broadly its pre-deregulation level.

2.2 Whilst the existing policies reflect themes still current in the Transport White Paper, such as the emphasis on the transport needs of older and disabled people, the need for bus priority, improved interchange and information, it has become clear that other aspects of existing policies are in need of review, such as the targeting of public transport revenue support. With this in mind, the County Council commissioned a Value for Money Study in March 1999 to evaluate its current financial support policies and criteria as a precursor to the wider policy review.

3. COMPONENTS OF THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT POLICY REVIEW

3.1 Clearly the review of public transport policies needs to fit into the broader policy framework and to incorporate other initiatives already in progress. The component of the policy review therefore include:

The national policy context: The Transport White Paper, Bus Policy 'daughter document' and forthcoming Transport Act

These documents reflect a change in policy direction by Government, with the aim of reducing car dependency by promoting the alternatives of walking, cycling and public transport, whilst reducing the need to travel through changes in land use planning. Whilst the Transport Act 1985 put the emphasis on local authorities 'filling the gaps' by securing socially necessary services not provided commercially, the new policy emphasis is on promoting a 'virtuous circle' by strengthening the viability of key commercial routes through the development of quality partnerships.

The County Council's overall policy context.

The corporate policies and the Hampshire County Structure Plan (Review) reflect the Government's policy direction by seeking to maintain the economic vitality of Hampshire whilst improving the quality of life, through sustainable development and reducing the dependency on car use.

The County Council's transportation policies.

'Transport: A Framework for the Future' sets out the County Council's transportation policies, whilst the Local Transport Plan embraces the 10 area transportation strategies which set out integrated transport solutions tailored to local circumstances.

The 'Best Value' approach outlined by Government for the provision of services by local authorities.

'Best Value' seeks to evaluate and enhance what we do and how we do it, through the key stages of 'Challenge, Compare, Consult and Compete'. Passenger transport provision is one of the County Council's functions selected for early application of best value principles, which will form part of the policy review process.

The 'Policy into Practice' work undertaken by the District Auditor examining financial support for public transport and policy context.

This work is related to Best Value and has looked in detail at passenger transport provision. The work has already highlighted the need to review the financial support policies, which currently seek to maintain broadly the pre-deregulation network of services.

The Audit Commission report, 'All Aboard', on financial support for public transport outside London.

This report concludes that financial support is poorly targeted and that local authorities need to develop clearer policy objectives and criteria for support.

The Value for Money Study on public transport support undertaken by consultants for the County Council.

This study is expected to report in October 1999 and will suggest a way forward for the financial support of the bus services and the overall balance of expenditure between services, infrastructure and information. This work will help to inform consideration of options such as the allocation of support between, for example, rural bus service support and measures such as bus priority, designed to promote modal shift in urban areas.

The Assessment of Rural Transport Needs already undertaken by consultants for the County Council.

This study has suggested which areas of Hampshire have significant levels of unmet need, where future rural bus initiatives could be targeted. It also concluded that in comparison with other shire counties studied by the consultants, the level of rural bus provision meets a relatively high proportion of assessed travel needs.

The draft Accessible Transport Strategy developed by consultants for the County Council.

The strategy sets out how the County Council can best meet the travel needs of older and disabled people and will clearly form an important part of a revised policy framework.

The draft Rail Services and Rail Infrastructure Blueprints prepared by the County Surveyor.

The Blueprints are currently at the consultation stage. They set out the proposed aspirations for future service provision, which the County Council will seek to promote in its dealings with the train operators and the Strategic Rail Authority, and the infrastructure provision, in terms of facilities at stations, which the County Council will assist financially where it is not justified in purely commercial terms. Clearly the Blueprints will represent a statement of County Council policy objectives for local rail provision in Hampshire and will therefore form an important part of the revised policy framework.

The review of the Hythe and Hayling local ferry services, being undertaken by consultants in association with Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils and relevant Districts.

The review will result in a five-year plan for each service, providing a financial framework for service provision and infrastructure renewal, embracing the quality partnership approach. The review will set the agenda for ferry service support and development and is a relevant input to the overall policy review.

The need to develop a bus strategy in accordance with local transport plan guidance.

The Bus Strategy will need to be in place for the County Council's Local Transport Plan submission in July 2000. The guidance states that local authorities need to establish a core network and set target service levels. The Strategy could be developed in terms of a set of guiding principles, which are then applied to each of the 10 area transportation strategies, in turn relating to the road traffic reduction targets set for these area strategies.

The need to develop a Public Transport Information Strategy in accordance with Local Transport Plan guidance. Again this will need to be in place for the Local Transport Plan submission in July.

The importance of readily available public transport information is stressed in the Transport White Paper. Local authorities are therefore required to develop a Public Transport Information Strategy, setting out the role of the various information media, including timetable leaflets, booklets, the Internet, inter-active journey planning terminals and telephone enquiry services.

3.2 It will be apparent from the preceding paragraphs that much work is already in progress or is planned on the components of a public transport policy review. What is needed is an overall framework within which to draw together the different elements.

3.3 It is therefore intended that the new policy statement will take the form of an overall framework of policy objectives, stating the key principles of the County Council's policies for public transport, complemented by a set of subsidiary policy documents which set out in detail how the County Council will implement its overall objectives. These subsidiary documents will consist of the:

Bus Strategy
Rail Services and Rail Infrastructure Blueprints
Accessible Transport Strategy
Ferry Strategy
Public Transport Information Strategy.

3.4 The County Council's Public Transport Sub-Committee will consider this approach at its meeting on 20 September 1999.

4. DEVELOPING THE NEW APPROACH

4.1 Developing the new public transport framework needs to involve stakeholders, such as district councils, the city councils, transport operators and user groups, together with consultation with other interested parties. Ensuring this involvement will be an essential part of the process in line with the direction provided by the Transport White Paper and Local Transport Plan guidelines and with Best Value requirements.

This involvement will take place in two ways:

An officer working group

A working group is proposed to oversee the results emerging from the results of the Value for Money Study and consider future funding choices for public transport. Membership of the working group will comprise representatives of:

the County Council (Passenger Transport Group)

District Councils (the Chief Executive of Test Valley Borough Council nominated by the HIOW Chief Executives Group)

District Audit, in view of the 'Policy into Practice' work

a local transport operator, appointed by the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the trade body for bus and coach operators.

The working group will hold its first meeting in October, and will need to determine terms of reference for its work. Whilst an initial task will be to make input into the County Council's new public transport framework, it is envisaged that the Group will particularly focus on longer term funding issues and options surrounding public transport, including the Best Value approach; in line with the proposed consideration of such issues at national level by the Commission for Integrated Transport. Further reports on the conclusions of this working group will be reported to the Association in due course.

Wider public consultation

This will include all district councils, the city councils, parish councils, the Isle of Wight Council, user groups, health authorities and trusts, community transport groups and a wide range of other interested parties. The consultation will be similar to that undertaken for the Accessible Transport Strategy.

4.2 The timescale for developing the new approach is being considered by the County Council's Public Transport Sub-Committee on 20 September 1999 as follows:

October 1999

First meeting of the officer working group to consider a first draft of the revised policy objectives.

November 1999

Draft policy objectives presented to the Sub-Committee, to seek approval for consultation.

November 1999

Public consultation on the revised policy

to 31 January 2000objectives.

6 March 2000

Results of consultation reported to the Sub-Committee, together with final version of the draft policy objectives, amended in the light of consultation

10 April 2000

Planning and Transportation Committee to approve revised policy objectives

July 2000

Inclusion within the Local Transport Plan

5. CONCLUSION

5.1 The current public transport policies set out in the 1999 Passenger Transport Report are clearly in need of review, as the general approach to the support of bus services relates primarily to deregulation and does not accord well with the Transport White Paper and the County Council's Local Transport Plan.

5.2 The revised public transport policy objectives need to fit into the context of national transport policy, the County Council's overall strategic policies and the transportation policies embodied in 'Transport: a Framework for the Future' and the Local Transport Plan.

5.3 A significant amount of work on the components of the revised policy approach is already in progress but work has yet to commence on the development of a Bus Strategy and Public Information Strategy, both of which are necessary for the next Local Transport Plan submission

5.4 It is proposed that the policy statement should consist of an overall framework of public transport policy objectives, complemented by a set of subsidiary documents, which would set out in detail how the policy objectives will be implemented.

5.5 The timescale outlined in the report will ensure that the revised public transport policy objectives are the subject of consultation with stakeholders and the public and finalised in time for inclusion with the Local Transport Plan submission in July 2000.

5.6 The process outlined in the report will ensure that the development of the revised public transport framework involves other stakeholders, including district councils and the city councils, and is the subject of wide consultation. The Officer Working Group will also allow a wider consideration of longer-term funding issues surrounding public transport.

Recommendation

That the approach to the development of revised public transport policies outlined in the report be endorsed.

JOHN EKINS
County Surveyor, Hampshire County Council

Last update: 12/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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