Cabinet to discuss affordable local transport
With the council required to find £75million savings over the next three years, local transport services need to be affordable and prioritise people who depend on it most.
On Wednesday, Gloucestershire County Council's cabinet will discuss recommendations to help ensure transport to employment, education, health services and essential shopping facilities, whilst also saving money where possible.
Three thousand two hundred local people have taken part in the consultation, influencing the recommendations. The proposals look at three main areas: free parking at council run park and ride sites, concessionary travel on park and ride, and local bus services that are currently partly or fully funded by the county council.
Currently, free parking is available at Arle Court and Waterwells park and ride sites, with some of the site costs covered by bus fares. However, over 50 cars a day are parking for free without using the bus. Over two thirds of people who responded agreed with charging for parking. If cabinet agrees, the next step will be to design a way that means that those people who 'park and walk' will also pay something to park.
Travel on the park and ride services is also free to those with concessionary bus passes. However, almost all people use a car to get to the park and ride, suggesting they do have other transport options. Government rules mean that the council doesn't have to provide free concessionary fares on park and ride services, and as a result it gets no government funding towards the cost.
When asked to rate their priorities for concessionary fares, providing free travel on park and ride to concessionary bus pass holders came out the lowest. Two thirds of people said they would continue to use the service if a charge for concessionary travel was introduced on the park and ride. However there was a preference for a half fare, so the recommendation being made is to phase in a discount on the standard fare.
The proposals could also see extra help for disabled people using the buses to get to work. At present, free bus passes for people with disabilities can't be used before 9.30am, in line with national rules. Following the consultation, the council will look into reaching a deal for discounted travel for disabled people travelling to work before that time.
Further savings need to be found from the less busy bus services that are partly or wholly funded by the council. These are used for 10 per cent of all bus journeys in the county's bus routes, with the other 90 per cent made on services operated by commercial bus companies. The recommendations will look to make changes, maintain or redesign services, based on what alternatives are available, including community transport. Further details will be published later this week, including further investment in the county's community transport network.
Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure said: "We must make sure that all our services support the most vulnerable people in our communities. For some, public transport is essential for work and wellbeing, and it's these people who need to be our priority when deciding how we spend taxpayers money.
"Over 3,000 people gave us feedback, which means we have a true understanding of the services our communities need, and I'd like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation."