Wiltshire Council are proposing to do away entirely with the Demand Responsive bus services running under the banner of Connect 2 (as an aside I really really hate the faux ‘hip’ renaming from WigglyBus). You can find the consultation paper here:
Responses to the proposal should be sent by 14th May to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to the Passenger Transport Unit, Wiltshire Council, County Hall, Trowbridge BA14 8JN (attention of Ian White).
My own response is below.
The proposed replacement of the Demand Responsive Connect 2 services in Pewsey Vale with traditional linear routes would be a mistake for the following reasons.
- Demand responsive services have proved their worth in improving accessibility for many people across the Pewsey Vale and in other locations in the county. This was evidenced by the response to the WigglyBus on its launch, and via public involvement in the service before that forum was done away with by the Council. If numbers have dropped it seems likely that is because the sense of community ‘ownership’ of the service at its inception has been dissipated by removal of that direct public involvement.
- No linear route can ever properly meet the needs of the many small hamlets and settlements across Pewsey Vale. Removal of the present service would inevitably result in a significant reduction in the quality of life for residents of those smaller settlements, especially the elderly or those without a car available during the day. A linear route may well be cheaper to run but will actually be more inefficient since it will only meet the needs of a limited number of people.
- Removing the option of public transport would also increase the likelihood of households acquiring a second or even third vehicle. Since the Devizes end of the present journeys comes in down London Road, already subject to congestion and likely to get worse, this would have an adverse effect on many other people not using these services.
- Reliance instead on community or voluntary transport is likely to extend journey times for users, not reduce them.
- Criticisms of the service based on poor performance in terms of journeys between Pewsey and Devizes or between Pewsey and Marlborough miss the point. No DR service could ever expect to provide for such journeys.
- The cost of the call centre is a red herring. The cost per journey should be defrayed by extending them across more DR services so extending the benefits to a much wider area.
Far from cutting back Demand Responsive services they should be extended across the County supplemented by a recasting of the between town routes as express services. My last journey by public transport from Chippenham to Devizes for example took me almost halfway to Calne before the bus turned back towards Devizes. Improved connectivity between towns will improve access to employment and boost overall economic growth in the county. These changes would have a wider impact than just bus users and should therefore be the subject of a much wider consultation with employers and others.
I have included a diagrammatic representation of the approach I believe is needed.