Park and Ride changes

With the Pandemic having a significant impact on the national bus market, B&NES has found that operators are less willing to accept the levels of risk on contracts tendered across the country.

At a cabinet meeting on May 5th they’ll consider a report which sets out options for their own Park and Ride services as the current contract, set up ten years ago, is due to expire in August – and may well decide to take on the risk of possible losses themselves.

Over the past ten years demand for the park and ride service has been strong carrying millions of passengers into the city and helping avoid additional traffic and congestion in the city centre and residential streets. However, the impact of Covid and changes to working and leisure patterns has recently seen passenger numbers at 78 per cent of 2019-20 levels.

The report notes that the pandemic has also had a significant impact on the national bus market, reducing patronage and resulting in the need for Central Government grants to ensure service continuity, with around £2 billion made available to more than 160 operators nationally. This has affected the levels of risk that operators are willing to accept on contracts nationally and may have been reflected through the tender responses received.

However, despite the current usage being below the historical trends the overall long-term forecast for the service is considered to be positive and demand is anticipated to grow. This is because of a number of local, regional and national policy interventions encouraging more sustainable transport options.

Against this backdrop cabinet members will consider awarding a contract to a preferred bidder on a ‘gross’ cost basis.

Under a gross cost contract option, all income would be retained by the council which would have the ability to be more flexible about prices and operating hours in the future as patronage recovers.  However, the council would also retain all of the risk for the contract if patronage drops.  

Under the gross contract option fares, from September, would be set at £3.60 per return adult fare on all days (rather than £3.60 Monday-Friday and £3.00 on weekends); all group ticket options currently available would be maintained and the hours of operation would remain the same but with an option to revisit the service such as times the buses run depending on the income generated by the service as patronage recovers.

The report recommends finance reviews at six-monthly intervals to compare the actual income against the model and, subject to income levels make further investments such as extending the hours of operation and/or reducing the fares and/or site improvements 

And it sets out a parking charge on the Park & Ride site for all or some users to offset the increased costs of the operation of the sites and the bus service and ensure that the service remains viable in the long term.

Councillor Manda Rigby, cabinet member for Transport, said: “The park and ride service has played a vital role in reducing traffic coming into the city and is a good and efficient service for residents near the routes, visitors and commuters. It contributes towards our climate emergency ambitions as well as helping improve air quality by reducing congestion and vehicle intrusion into the city centre and residential streets.

“We now have an opportunity to award a new contract because the current one expires later this year. A great deal of careful consideration has gone into a new contract following a thorough assessment of the market set against strong passenger figures over the past decade as well as seasonal impacts and the effect of the pandemic over the past two years. The option before us gives greater flexibility to the council around operating hours and fares as well as future investment in the sites which would enable us to make improvements for passengers while contributing to our ambitious Journey to Net Zero aims for the city.”             

Cabinet meets on May 5 at 6.30pm and will be broadcast on the council’s Youtube channel  

3 Comments

  1. To respond to the oft-repeated complaint that the service ends too early in the day to be of use to workers or revellers in Bath, why not run just two buses back to the P&R car parks in the evening, one at 7pm and one at 11.30pm. That would serve workers and revellers, just as late-night buses do in London.

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  2. Reblogged this on Walk Ride Bath and commented:
    Given the work Walk Ride Bath did with the council, First Group, and our MP at the time Ben Howlett, even having a meeting in parliament with the under secretary for transport to get bus racks on the front of buses (https://walkridebath.org.uk/2015/06/04/front-of-bus-cycle-racks-the-dvsa-says-no/).

    After we did not succeed in getting a trial I was informed, at the time, that bikes in P&R buses was not possible as the contract did not include them. It could only be fixed at contract renegotiation time! So here we are, and no, the council does not appear to have included a bikes on buses clause or they have not even mentioned it.

    Engineering wise it’s a simple swapping out of a fold down seat (https://www.gonortheast.co.uk/bike-buses)

    Sarah Warren mentioned the Trondheim Bike Lift as an example of a system to look into for Bath at the last Climate Emergency Scrutiny Panel. This system cost £1m and only carries a physically able person on a bicycle 150m. Adding a clause to a contract and retrofitting a 15 P&R buses at a cost of around £1000 per bus to enable them to carry buses would create a bike lift system that is carries residents miles. It’s cheap as chips BUT the contracts need to enable it.

    Many people argue that people cannot cycle around Bath due to the hills. This is the solution that Bath needs. Looking at the bigger picture, this is something EVERY bus across the West of England should have fitted. Trialing this in Bath is that first step to a much better integrated multi-modal public transport service.

    This contract I suspect is for 10 years. It really is a once in a generation(ish) opportunity. I really hope the council gets this right.

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    1. In most other countries, bicycles are attached to a rack on the front of the bus. No fuss and no room lost inside the bus.

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