We would like to ask some questions relating to the provision of socially necessary bus services by your council. We may use this information as part of our campaign to increase rural bus services through central government investment.
The following questions relate to your local authority’s provision of socially necessary bus services:
1. As per clause 63 of the 1985 Transport Act, when was the last time your council assessed the need to meet any public transport requirements within their area and were any deficiencies found which would not in their view be met apart from any action taken by them for that purpose?
It is not our usual practice to carry out comprehensive assessments of need in the way the question implies. The starting point for the bus network is the level of ‘commercial’ provision. The Council then responds to specific changes in this provision by assessing any gaps which need to be filled by supported services. This process may be described as continuous. There have been two exceptions to this process:
1. In 1997 when the Government introduced Rural Bus Subsidy Grant;
2. In 2019 when the Government announced New Funding For Supported Bus Services 2020/2021.
In both cases, Devon County Council assessed the Countywide potential for new or extended services over and above commercial provision.
2. When your council last made the assessment as per clause 63 of the 1985 Transport Act referenced above in question 1, how many parishes were considered to have public transport requirements which would not be met apart from action taken by the council, and what was the 2011 census population of these parishes?
The programme of proposed service improvements using New Funding for Supported Bus Services can be viewed via the link below.
The submission to Department for Transport and the Parish Table 2019 (which can be viewed via the links below) indicate the extent of information available in answer to the remainder of this question.
3. How many of the parishes assessed as having public transport requirements which would not be met apart from action taken by the council are currently having those public transport requirements met by the council?
Our on-line timetable books indicate which bus routes are supported by Devon County Council which can be viewed online at:Timetable
The parish table referred to in response to question 2 indicates the level of analysis we undertake.
4. If a decision has been made not to meet the public transport requirements, which would not otherwise be met, of any parishes surveyed under clause 63 of the 1985 Transport Act, what assessment was made of the potential cost of meeting the needs identified in the survey, and what criteria were used to reach the conclusion not to deliver those services?
As indicated above, there is usually no single comprehensive event of this nature. Each decision is based on an assessment of costs (according to current or potential contract costs) balanced against our criteria for service support, which involve a calculation of maximum subsidy per passenger using or likely to use the service – and the available internal budget or external funding source.
5. If a decision has been made not to meet the public transport requirements of any parishes surveyed under clause 63 of the 1985 Transport Act, what assessment was made of the knock on costs to other authorities or other budgets arising from not delivering those services, and if so what was the value of those costs?
In assessing the case for bus service support, we do not consciously impose costs on other authorities or budgets. No formal quantified assessment is usually made. However, we are currently assisting in a project on the social cost:benefit value of local bus services.
6. In order to carry out your clause 63 responsibilities, how do you gather information regards changes in demand for rural bus services? Do you engage with Parish Councils and if so is this on a routine basis or an ad hoc basis? If routine, how frequently? Do you have any other ways of ensuring you understand how demand is changing at a local level?
We are always open to communication with our parish councils, local councillors, bus companies, neighbouring authorities, community transport groups and bus user groups. We also assist in local research on request. We also undertake passenger usage surveys on an ‘as required’ basis. Any significant change to County Council policy or practice is subject to public consultation, the most recent example of which was in relation to our proposed use of the Government’s New Funding for Supported Bus Services 2020/2021.