Agenda item

Public Questions and Statements

Members of the public may ask questions or make statements at this meeting if they have given notice to Melanie Carr of Democratic and Scrutiny Services and supplied the text (contact details below) by midday on Thursday 7 October 2021, three working days before the day of the meeting.  Each speaker should limit themselves to 3 minutes on any item.  Members of the public who have given notice will be invited to speak:-

·            at this point in the meeting if their questions/statements relate to matters which are not otherwise on the Agenda (subject to an overall time limit of 30 minutes);

·            when the relevant Agenda item is being considered if they wish to speak on a matter which is on the Agenda for this meeting.

If you are exercising your right to speak at this meeting, but do not wish to be recorded, please inform the Chairman who will instruct anyone who may be taking a recording to cease while you speak.



There were one statement received from a member of the public in regard to Agenda item 6 – National Bus Strategy.  Ms Ruth Annision attended the meeting and presented the following submission:

I am a long--term resident and employer in rural North Yorkshire - and an almost daily user of public transport for much of the last eight years.


During that time Carbon Net Zero and Decarbonisation have become phrases in everyday use this year through the forthcoming international COP 26 conference in Glasgow.  The UK Government has set robust targets for decarbonisation and bold strategies for the use of technical developments and digital technology in pursuit of Carbon Net Zero. In turn, many statutory authorities, individuals and a host of organisations have acknowledged the realities of Climate Change and declared a Climate Emergency. Ten days ago, Richmond held its first Climate Action Festival; next week-end is Northallerton’s One Planet event. Such activities are becoming embedded in the life of the wider community and recent fuel shortages have nudged a few more motorists into considering alternatives to the private car.


North Yorkshire’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) is one strand in a national programme of reaction to the challenges so starkly facing us. Yet where is the environmental under-pinning of NYCC’s BSIP? Late in the document, it only appears as Section 10 of 11! Where are the references to encouraging modal shift, from car-dependency to reliable, regular and attractive public transport with good network connections? How is NYCC planning to provide non-car access into North Yorkshire’s two National Parks? (Richmond, Yorkshire, is the only Parliamentary constituency with two National Parks – the Moors and the Dales, one each side of the A1).


The BSIP refers to “North Yorkshire’s status as a leading tourism destination in England” – bu there seems to be little attempt to meet the public transport needs of visitors on Staycations and days out - other than the incredible volunteer-led, self-funded and self-marketed DalesBus and Moorsbus.  How about linking the four market towns of Northallerton-Bedale-Leyburn and Hawes with a 7 days a week, instead of only on Sundays with the DalesBus 856?                      


NYCC is backing a rollout of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), the scheme being piloted between Ripon, Masham and Bedale. DRT services are pre-booked, from bus stop to bus stop. They are normally booked using a digital App. DRT does have some limited bespoke uses – but for most passengers they are no substitute for scheduled services – that is, buses running to a fixed timetable around which people can plan travel for work, shopping, doctor, leisure, rail connections and cross-boundary journeys.  It is significant that Roger French, a national DRT expert, has pointed out that the two vehicles and four drivers on the YorBus service could equally well provide an hourly scheduled turn-up-and-go service on the same route.


The Government is looking for “transformational change” in the Bus Service Improvement Plans submitted to it (Baroness Vere, Department for Transport, September 2021). Could North Yorkshire’s BSIP propose, for example, the following improvements in public transport:

a)    A more significant passenger growth and mileage target (eg.10% in the next 3 years);

b)    Increased investment in scheduled service provision, to help facilitate growth, including market town connectivity and increased accessibility to the National Parks and coast;

c)    Consideration of car traffic reduction targets.


In response, Cathy Knight – NYCC’s Commercial Sector Service Development Manager, confirmed that North Yorkshire’s Bus Service Improvement Plan demonstrated ambitious plans to decarbonise the bus network and drew attention to the Plan which stated ‘We want bus services across North Yorkshire to be zero emission’.  She acknowledged it was not shown until midway through the document but explained this was because the plan had been required to follow a template set out by the Department for Transport.  Nevertheless, she confirmed there were ambitious plans to decarbonise the bus fleet in North Yorkshire and a roadmap detailing how this would be delivered.  She also confirmed the County Council was accelerating those plans and had been successful in getting through to the second round of a Department for Transport funding opportunity, which, if phase 2 proved successful would see around £20m invested in zero emission buses and supporting infrastructure in Harrogate . 


Cathy Knight noted the central theme running throughout the government’s Bus Back Better strategy was to make the bus a real alternative to the car, and drew attention to the objectives, projects and targets for delivery set out in North Yorkshire’s BSIP, designed to improve bus services.  Although she accepted, it did not explicitly state they were designed to achieve modal shift and would in turn have a positive environmental impact.


In terms of tourism, Cathy Knight confirmed the County Council’s commitment to exploring innovative ticketing products as part of the marketing strategy, together with how the area could be better promoted to those outside of North Yorkshire.  She also noted that the wider roll out of the YorBus service offered attractive public transport option to tourists, and confirmed that tourists from outside of North Yorkshire had already been using the pilot service as had a number of local residents, to access places such as Fountains Abbey and Lightwater Valley.


She accepted there would always be sceptics of new proposals and noted there were some commentators that felt the YorBus service was not meeting local needs.  She also confirmed she remained unconvinced that the two vehicles and four drivers on the YorBus service could equally well provide an hourly scheduled turn-up-and-go service on the same route.  She suggested they may well be able to provide such a service over part of the YorBus zone, but would not be able to provide coverage to other areas of the zone such as Grantley, Kirkby Malzeard, Grewelthorpe and Bishop Thornton. She noted that whilst some were not in favour, there had been overwhelming support for the service from many people, as evidenced by the number using the service and the number of regular users.  She drew attention to the YorBus pilot service, designed to work in tandem and complement the existing public transport services, and highlighted that residents within the pilot zone could now travel to Ripon and connect with Transdev 36 service, giving wider transport options and access to the national transport network.


Given the impacts of the Covid19 pandemic, Cathy Knight accepted the targets for passenger growth were ambitious, given that bus patronage nationally was not expected to return to pre-Covid levels for three years.  She noted however, the North Yorkshire Bus Service Improvement Plan set a target of returning to pre-Covid levels by March 2023.  She also drew attention to key strands of the plan i.e. to take an evidence and place based approach to bus priority, understanding where the greatest benefits from interventions and improvements could be delivered, improving bus journey times and making the bus a more attractive option than the car.


Finally, in terms of investment in scheduled services, she drew attention to the report, which detailed that £13.5m bus revenue support was sought as part of the plan to deliver the BSIP.  She stressed how important it was that the improvements made through the Bus Service Improvement Plan were sustainable, and confirmed the bus revenue support funding would therefore target bus services that could demonstrate their sustainability.  She also confirmed the County Council still retained a revenue support budget for services that were not financially sustainable in their own right.


Ms Annison requested a copy of the officer response.  She also confirmed that in her view the BSIP was weighted towards vehicles and the access of money, rather than to the outcomes for passengers across the county.  She therefore requested consideration be given to building in some wording that would allow the Authority to retreat from the direct response transport service except for as a supplementary to good linear routes.