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Easing the pain of bus service cuts – ask the passenger

Local authorities need to listen to passengers when proposing cuts to their bus services.

The independent passenger watchdog, Transport Focus, has produced an update to its 2012 toolkit to help local authorities make difficult decisions about the future of local bus services. When faced with cuts to services decisions by local authorities should be made on a fair, consistent and rational basis.

Local authorities should be fully informed by the views of passengers, local communities and bus operators. Experience shows that when done well consultations can minimise the impact of cuts on passengers.

Speaking to local authorities Transport Focus has found that while there have been some advances in bus service consultations, there is a need for all local authorities to raise their standards to match those of the best performing local authorities.

David Sidebottom, Transport Focus passenger director, said:

“Passengers tell us that their main priority is for the bus to turn up on time – or at all. We know local authorities are facing difficult decisions and sometimes cuts are unavoidable. But keeping passengers and local communities informed and engaged throughout is vital – it can even help make changes that reduce the need for cuts.”

This updated research follows on from the recommendation of the Transport Select Committee in its 2011 report, Bus services after the comprehensive spending review, for Transport Focus to develop a bus consultation toolkit for local authorities.

This guide to better consultations is informed by case studies showing when engagement and communication has gone well. This includes keeping local people involved throughout and making genuine savings for councils.

Best practice authorities highlighted in the guide include Wiltshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Worcestershire. The research provides examples of good practice including consulting at an early stage in the process, extensive publicity targeted at those affected and proper consideration of responses and modification of proposals to reflect respondents’ views.

With spending reviews reducing the budgets available for local councils and local transport authorities, some tough decisions are having to be made. This toolkit is not a campaign for more funds (however welcome that might be) but an attempt to help local authorities with that demanding task.

Click here to download Bus service reviews: consulting on changes to local services – progress report.

In October 2012 Transport Focus published Bus service reviews: consulting on changes to local services, a best practice toolkit

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