BPC Response to CPCA Bus Strategy
Response Submitted to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) on 22/2/2023
Bottisham Parish Council submits its response to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) Bus Strategy, dated November 2022, as follows:
Background, current situation in Bottisham regarding bus services, and current Bus Strategy
The large and vibrant village of Bottisham, in East Cambridgeshire but only 4 miles from Cambridge City’s boundary and 6 miles from the centre of Cambridge, was negatively impacted from October 2022 by the failure of the CPCA’s existing Bus Strategy. This failure was evidenced by the withdrawal, with very little publicised notice, of all our existing bus services – two once-per-hour Monday-to-Saturday bus routes and - at the time of the announcement of the withdrawal - no assurance that these bus routes would have any replacements that served Bottisham.
We note that the purpose of the Bus Strategy is not to examine detailed, granular issues around specific routes and services. However, it is Bottisham Parish Council’s contention that the issues around the withdrawal of specific bus routes and services in our village in October 2022 (and in other Cambridgeshire and Peterborough communities affected by Stagecoach’s programme of withdrawals at that time), and the issues around replacement bus services, reflect a failure of the CPCA’s existing Bus Strategy.
Mention of them is therefore key to a discussion of this new Bus Strategy, and we are very keen that the new Bus Strategy avoids the failings of the old (existing) Strategy.
We believe that CPCA’s existing practises and policies fail to deliver what CPCA aspires to in the‘Vision for Buses’ and in the foundational elements of the new Bus Strategy in four key areas: 1) Partnership; 2) Information and getting the message out, 3) An integrated, coherent network linking people to the places they want to get to, and 4) Value for money and simple, integrated ticketing.
We discuss these below:
1) The October 2022 bus changes demonstrate a lack of effective Partnership
We know that a‘Greater Cambridgeshire Bus Operators’Forum’ was set up in 2021 but to us the fact that there was only a short time between CPCA apparently being made aware of the forthcoming Stagecoach bus service withdrawals in October 2022 and them then taking effect demonstrates the lack of real partnership working between CPCA and the bus operators.
Another instance of the lack of practical partnership is the difference between a) the published timetable timings and actual stop patterns of Bottisham’s current bus service 12 post-October 2022 and b) what appears under the detailed Traveline timetables for this route, which we understand is input by CPCA. (This is important because accurate source data on scheduled timetables in Traveline is essential for enabling computer-based journey planners - used by travellers - to work properly).
We note that England’s National Bus Strategy‘Bus Back Better’ includes strong encouragement from central Government for authorities to adopt close partnership working with bus operators, with a move towards adopting formal‘Enhanced Partnerships’.
2) The October 2022 bus changes demonstrate the lack of a CPCA Public Transport Information Strategy
Since October 2022 the roadside publicity for the bus service which, we understand, is ultimately the responsibility of the CPCA as the Local Authority responsible for overseeing Public Transport, has been, and continues to be, atrocious. This projects a poor image which acts strongly against the concept of the bus service being an attractive proposition for most Bottisham residents, and thereby runs counter to the CPCA’s stated policy objectives in its new Bus Strategy.
We are not aware of any published and adopted CPCA Public Transport Information Strategy. In particular, we have been unable to find published policies on the following:
• Which organisations provide at-stop timetables
• Which organisations provide the bus stop flag, and
• Which organisations maintain the information and condition of those
In Bottisham this results in:
• most bus stops that were used by the previous Stagecoach services that ran until 29/10/22 having no timetables displayed (the bus stops have existing timetable cases which are empty),
• stop flags with information displayed which refers to the previous operator rather than the current operator, and, in some cases,
• stop flags with out-of-date route numbers on the stop flags
These give an incredibly poor image of public transport, and are confusing both to existing bus users and to those who would consider using bus services but don’t currently. This goes right against CPCA’s policy of delivering a vibrant, successful bus system. Other negative aspects of the lack of any CPCA Public Transport Information Strategy are:
• no single Cambridgeshire-wide or CPCA-wide bus brand
• no single, clear public transport information website for Cambridgeshire or for CPCA
• no bus maps for cities, towns or rural / interurban networks in the CPCA area
3) The October 2022 bus changes demonstrate the lack of a CPCA Strategy for an integrated, coherent network linking people to the places they want to get to
While Bottisham’s replacement commercially-operated hourly bus service that has existed since the end of October 2022 (provided by a bus operator that is new to the Cambridge area) is running successfully as far as we can tell, it omits some significant and important village – village links offered by the previous services. It also has shorter operating hours compared to the previous service.
4) The October 2022 bus changes demonstrate the lack of an effective CPCA Strategy for delivering value-for-money and simple integrated ticketing
The replacement bus service inevitably fails to offer the low-price single-operator through ticketing / fares options with connecting bus services that were offered by the previous services (whose operator – at that time - ran buses in most of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough). There is no longer through bus ticketing to other destinations in Cambridge (e.g. railway station, Addenbrookes Hospital, retail parks), other than the £8 Cambridgeshire Multibus ticket. Although, of course, Multibus is welcomed, it is more expensive than the through tickets previously offered by the previous operator prior to 31/10/22.
Regarding the specific questions on the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority's bus strategy consultation, Bottisham Parish Council has the following response:
Question 5: How much do you agree with the Vision of the Bus Strategy?
Bottisham Parish Council strongly agrees with the Bus Strategy Vision but believes that it is incompatible with CPCA's current Bus Strategy, which demonstrates a lack of effective Partnership with bus operators, and an absence of a strategy for Bus Information
Question 6: How much do you agree with the Aims of the Bus Strategy?
Bottisham Parish Council strongly agrees with the Bus Strategy Aims, but believes that the CPCA's current policies & practices regarding facilitating Convenience, Attractiveness and Ease (of Understandability and Use) of the existing Bus Network strongly act against the achievement of these Aims. The CPCA's current policies & practices serve to exacerbate the Bus Network's existing lack of Convenience, Attractiveness and Ease.
Question 7: How much do you agree with the four main principles of delivering the Bus Strategy?
Bottisham Parish Council agrees with the four main principles of delivering the Bus Strategy
Question 8. How would you prioritise our strategies?
Bottisham Parish Council has no particular views on prioritisation of the strategies
9. Do you any further comments on the Bus Strategy?
a) It should be noted that Bottisham is also subject to the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP)’s integrated Bus proposals, defined by GCP as one of the three parts in its‘Making Connections’ proposal, which was out for consultation in Autumn 2022 and for which responses to that are currently being reviewed by GCP.
East Cambridgeshire District Council is not represented on GCP, and the GCP area (‘Greater Cambridge’) explicitly covers only Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District (as defined in the‘Greater Cambridge City Deal Assurance Framework’updated 2022). However, some of GCP’s proposals, and specifically the Bus Strategy part of‘Making Connections’, explicitly cover extensive areas outside‘Greater Cambridge’. The‘Making Connections’ documentation describes‘Making Connections’ as a‘proposal in three parts’ of which the first part is‘1. Transforming the bus network. From mid-2023, we are proposing to transform the bus network through new routes, additional services, cheaper fares and longer operating hours.’ Also, the’Making Connections’ Map Book explicitly covers all the bus services running extensively into areas outside the‘Greater Cambridge’ (including Bottisham)’
Yet the CPCA Bus Strategy has only two small references to the Greater Cambridge Partnership Bus Strategy in 'Making Connections'. Given the latter's crucial importance to the bus services over a large part of the CPCA area (including those parts that are also outwith the GCP area) this seems a rather crucial omission from the CPCA Bus Strategy.
b) We note that ‘Bus Back Better’,the England National Bus Strategy,includes strong encouragement from central Government for authorities to adopt close partnership working with bus operators, with a move towards adopting formal‘Enhanced Partnerships’;and we see that CPCA’s original‘Bus Service Improvement Plan’ stated that an‘Enhanced Partnership’ would be put in place from April 2022, We also note that‘Bus Back Better’ gives the good practice example of Hertfordshire’s Intalink strategy which covers information and some other areas (‘Bus Back Better’, page 39), and that an operator interviewed during the process of writing CPCA’s‘Bus Service Improvement Plan’ commented positively on Intalink. We would recommend that CPCA gives serious consideration to adopting an‘Enhanced Partnership’ on the lines of Intalink.
c) The Bus Strategy seems to minimise the vast gap in provision and quality (regarding both the Bus Service level and the level of User Information) between the Network outlined in the 'Vision for Bus' and the Network that is provided now by CPCA and the bus operators. Whilst a gap is acknowledged in‘Setting the Scene’ (page 4), this omits a reference to the massive Stagecoach bus cuts at the end of October 2022, which both in themselves and in the response of the CPCA to them, revealed gaps in both the Partnership and User Information elements of CPCA’s existing Bus co-ordination activities. Omission of a reference to this reduces the Strategy's credibility.
d) We recommend that the Bus Strategy includes CPCA undertaking a programme of innovative bus service design in response to the continuing effect of the Stagecoach bus service cuts of last October, and that the Bus Strategy explicitly involves area and corridor traveller Groups in this programme. Bottisham Parish Council is a member of one such traveller group: the A TO B1102
Notice Date: 22/02/2023