Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Councillors Briefing Note: Cambridgeshire Future Transport

Purpose

The intention of this note is to give you an overview of the proposals for the Cambridgeshire Future Transport project to help inform local members and communities of the emerging plans and how they can be involved.

Background

Improving local passenger transport is one of the top priorities for the people of Cambridgeshire.  However, faced with a need to cut costs in all areas of passenger transport, including public, home-to-school and social services transport, and recognising that other public bodies, including health and district councils also provide transport funding and services, Cambridgeshire County Council called a Transport Summit in March Town Hall in February 2011.  There was agreement amongst those at the Summit, including organisations with an interest in the financing and delivery of transport, to work collaboratively to see what could be achieved working across organisational boundaries.

Following the Summit, the partners have been working together to find better ways to provide transport solutions to meet the needs of communities.  One of the main opportunities identified is to bring together the funding currently spent (£34m) by different departments in the County Council and other public bodies on providing transport, potentially avoiding duplication and making savings.  The improved arrangements are intended to deliver benefits for communities through a more efficient, effective and co-ordinated approach to transport by:

  • strengthening the link between community needs and the provision of transport 
  • improving transport provision by bringing together transport budgets and priorities across Cambridgeshire and linking the organisations involved in providing transport – this could help to make savings and provide opportunities for these to be reinvested locally
  • focussing more on local needs – by encouraging decisions to be made locally and to target available funds to meet community needs
  • stimulating commercial market innovation and allowing new solutions for local needs to emerge while maintaining quality and standards
  • opening up opportunities to create new commercial and community transport ventures – through schemes such as small franchises or linking new routes to existing commercial ones.
  • exploring the potential to improve accessibility to services, whether by taking people to services or services to people

The aim of Cambridgeshire Future Transport is to take a whole-county approach to changing the way transport is provided; and indeed looking beyond the County boundaries in recognition that people often wish to travel to or from other locations.  Such a fundamental change could not be implemented in one go, so pathfinder projects are being developed to test different approaches in different places.  The lessons learnt from the pathfinders will be used to inform more substantive arrangements across Cambridgeshire.

Over the next few months, discussions will take place among the partners to explore the potential for a coordinating transport body, ‘Transport for Cambridgeshire’, which would potentially:

  • bring together resources and budgets from the various funding bodies, including all County Council, district and city council and health transport budgets. 
  • develop a single point of contact and information for customers and clients.
  • provide procurement and business support for local providers, help develop local consortia to deliver transport services and, where appropriate, commissioning transport services
  • ensure that passenger transport across Cambridgeshire meets policy and statutory requirements 

Local communities will be encouraged to determine local transport priorities and the best way of providing transport to meet them.  This may be through forming Local Transport Consortia which will be financially incentivised to encourage better efficiency and innovation, while ensuring provision of transport tailored to local community needs.  We are open-minded as to how such consortia may be formed and how they will operate.  To help understand the potential solutions, three pathfinder schemes are being developed:

  • Testing the potential for private enterprise franchises for services to provide additional capacity in locations of greatest need and to complement existing provision.  This could see new companies coming forward to run local transport services, with the support of Transport for Cambridgeshire.
  • A locally led review of all transport services in parts of the north of Cambridgeshire, including linkages to neighbouring counties.  This pathfinder builds on work already undertaken by the Fenland Transport and Access Group linked into the Shaping Fenland project.  Work has been undertaken to map travel patterns and understand the needs of communities.  One example being investigated is the provision of a scheduled minibus service to connect with commercial bus service routes to improve access to Doddington Community Hospital and potentially save money by combining current transport provision. 
  • An external review of transport in the west the county to determine potential benefits that could be delivered by a social enterprise model for transport delivery.  This pathfinder has been brought forward because Huntingdonshire District Council had already done a lot of preparatory work and wanted to make early advances, but felt it has only limited resources to progress the work at this time.  It is anticipated that better transport provision may be possible by taking a more commercial view towards transport network planning to better utilise existing transport, whilst ensuring financial gains are used to improve local services.

One or more of the pathfinder schemes are likely to go live by the end of the year and, subject to evaluation of the pathfinders, the broader roll out will take place over the next few years.  There will be no further reductions in bus subsidies until work has been undertaken on the pathfinders and wherever possible a withdrawal of subsidies and the introduction of alternatives need to go hand in hand.  Public consultation will be undertaken before any significant changes are made to local transport provision.

We would welcome discussions with local members, districts and parishes on the pathfinders and any other initiatives proposed by businesses and communities.  Should you wish to discuss opportunities in your area or need more information of this programme please do not hesitate to contact Dan Clarke at Daniel.Clarke@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.