More than a year since York formally established an ‘Enhanced Bus Partnership’ to transform bus services in the city, the operational body in charge is failing to deliver key measures as we pass the half way point in the 3 year project, and risks wasting a large part of the £17m government funding according to Andy D’Agorne.
The council Executive approved the three year plan in September 2022 with targets by 2024-25 to see a 25% increase in passenger numbers and a 40% increase in journeys by young people.
It also aimed for a 30% increase in park and ride travel, peak journey times on busiest routes to cut travel times by 2 minutes, most frequent routes to be no more than 45 sec late on average.
“The Operational Board which makes decisions on use of the funding meets four times a year, as a private conversation between bus company representatives and council officers, to determine how the money is being spent. So far the majority of funding agreed has effectively been handed back to the companies to continue to run loss making services.” said Andy, the former Executive Member for Transport
“I am not the only one concerned at the lack of progress and the secrecy. The Enhanced Partnership Forum (the grouping of passenger and civic society representatives set up as part of Government funding rules to oversee progress) and York Bus Forum have been pushing similar concerns for months, struggling even to get access to minutes or meeting dates confirmed. Additional staff are now in post, but we need to ramp up changes to transform our bus services.”
The Operational Group minutes have still not been posted to the public website since Jan 2023 when some £700k was approved. Since then there’s been further funding approved and spent to retain several bus routes and a summer and autumn young people’s discount scheme (with somewhat limited promotion).
The Programme of changes to 5 park and ride sites to allow links to inter-urban bus services and overnight parking was due to see the first one running by now. A major multi million pound marketing campaign was due to have been completed when the contract hasn’t even been awarded yet.
A package of measures to cut bus delays has not yet begun, with the city centre movement study not even due to be reported to the Operational group and the council until Jan 2024.
According to the EP policy that the council approved a year ago, there should be a complete review of progress, published at the end of October each year and this has been asked to be made available at the November meeting of the EP Forum (Nov 10th).
However the draft minutes of the most recent Operational Delivery Group (Oct 20th) suggest ‘no changes are needed to the plan’ and give no indication of any assessment of progress delivering against the targets set for the scheme.