Lib Dem led Sutton Council trials On Demand bus service

ALDC flagged a story this week here, telling us about how Lib Dem-led Sutton Council has decided to trial an On Demand bus service.

Users will be able to use an app to request a bus to stop for them. The benefits are not just for the user – getting more people out of cars and onto buses and public transport reduces congestion and will improve air quality. Sutton Council is working with Transport for London on this trial, with more info on that partnership here.

Lack of bus services, and cuts to bus services, concern many communities up and down the country. Well done to Lib Dem Cllr Manuel Abellan and the team for leading by example. We’ll be keen to know how it all works out!

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20 Comments

  • Nonconformistradical 28th Feb '19 - 11:05am

    “Users will be able to use an app to request a bus to stop for them.”

    So what about those without a smartphone? Such people do exist! Digital divide rears its ugly head again?

  • An interesting idea that deserves a proper trial. So far it has been held back by a lack of support fortified by easily regurgitated one liners about the difficulties. Sutton deserve congratulations for trying it. I hope it works. If so other urban councils may be encouraged to try it, but if it doesn’t I hope they will have the courage to pull the plug quickly rather than let it drift.

  • David Becket 28th Feb '19 - 11:39am

    This type of service has been available in rural areas for some 20 years. Unfortunately due to cuts in grants some are now folding. The whole system of funding bus services needs a review. The over 65 pass, which is useable throughout the country, could be cut back to its original idea, only available in the area of the users home. It is currently used by many as reducing the costs of a seaside holiday or a trip to London, with operators picking up much of the tab.

  • Certainly the pensioners bus pass needs a serious review. The costs are high and the benefits often dubious. Bus companies, like the agricultural sector, farm these subsidies and buses loaded with pensioners on a freebie often prevent people from getting to work or college on time. I certainly feel more restrictions are needed. Sutton are to be congratulated though.

  • Martin Land 28th Feb ’19 – 12:35pm……………
    Certainly the pensioners bus pass needs a serious review. The costs are high and the benefits often dubious. Bus companies, like the agricultural sector, farm these subsidies and buses loaded with pensioners on a freebie often prevent people from getting to work or college on time. I certainly feel more restrictions are needed…………….

    I have had a bus pass for yonks. The three different areas that issued them all have restrictions; the main one being “NO USE BEFORE 9.30 am”….If your workers and students are still travelling that long after ‘rush hour’ then they won’t be suffering any inconvenience as those buses I’ve caught, after 9.30 tend to be anything but full.

    What these passes mean is that my car (with one person) won’t be in front of you at the roundabout, or taking a car parking space, or adding to pollution, etc., etc.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Feb '19 - 1:20pm

    All very well and good Mr Land, but for many pensioners, especially those who only have the state pension, bus passes are an essential part of their budget. Universal benefits are the only ones guaranteed to reach everyone and if necessary those on higher tax bands could pay a little more in tax to assist in the cost.
    Incidentally, all pensioners outside London have to pay for their travel on trains. In my area we pay 50% in off-peak hours in West Yorkshire. Outside the county we have to pay full fare on trains unless we purchase a Senior Rail Card, when we pay 2/3.
    If you baulk at the cost of concessionary fares, then simply pay pensioners a proper pension and then most of the supplementary payments would be unnecessary and pensioners could pay their way like the rest of us. A decent living wage pension would also end much of the form filling and pen pushing that the present complicated system requires.
    Buses on demand will be well used by pensioners and others because they will be available when the passengers need them. Well done Sutton.

  • jayne Mansfireld 28th Feb '19 - 2:24pm

    @ Martin Land,
    I concur with what Mick Taylor has said.

    There is plenty of evidence about the problems associated with social isolation and if a bus pass helps pensioners on very low weekly income to get out and about, the money is well spent.

    Whilst bus passes are a universal benefit, that does not mean that they are universally used. Those who have cars are well aware that door to door travel by car is far more convenient and comfortable.

  • Martin Land 28th Feb '19 - 3:10pm

    @expats et al. If only….
    Bus Passes can be a benefit. They can also be a racket. 9:30? Doesn’t stop bus drivers from letting them on before then and pulling over at 09:31 for them all to present their cards to the ticket machine. But there is no restriction later in the day with buses leaving town centres full of pensioners with free passes while working people who are paying for them have to wait up to two hours at out of town centre stops for a bus to take them home.
    Farming subsidies? Bus companies who have adjusted their routes so that pensioners need to use their passes twice to get from their homes to local hospitals. Route after route is adjusted to maximise their revenue from public funds.
    I’m not suggesting the system should be abolished. But it needs to be reviewed and amended, urgently, or the abuses will eventually lead to its abolition.

  • nvelope2003 28th Feb '19 - 3:42pm

    The amount paid by most councils, particularly in rural areas, to bus companies to compensate for the loss of revenue from free bus passes is minimal and even that has caused the ending of many rural bus routes because the councils cannot afford both route subsidies and free bus passes. The bus drivers here do not seem keen to allow free travel before 9.30 am.

    Unless your village is very big or on the route between two towns very few villages here have a bus now. I think many pensioners would not begrudge making a contribution although most have paid huge amounts in taxes over their working life It was 33% for most of my life

  • Graham Martin-Royle 28th Feb '19 - 5:10pm

    @nonconformistradical: As no one has picked up on your point it looks like nobody here cares.

  • David Evans 28th Feb '19 - 5:20pm

    Mick, Jayne, I think you may have forgotten that many pensioners in rural areas qualify for a free bus pass but have no buses to use it on. People who live in large towns and cities have a great many advantages over the rural poor, particularly in terms of access to many services, and city dwellers forget that far too often. True, the bus pass may be a universal benefit, but it is of no use to many in my area.

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th Feb '19 - 5:50pm

    @ David Evans,
    Yes, sometimes thanks to programmes like ‘Life in the Country’, rural life is portrayed as idyllic, and the hardships are ignored.

    I believe in the concept of some services being a social good and therefore not suitable for privatisation. Affordable travel is one such social good.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Feb '19 - 8:19pm

    On holiday in Spain the buses came every 8 minutes, displays at each bus stop showed when the next bus would arrive, so passengers knew whether it was worth waiting for the next bus.
    In London I would get off a train at Charing Cross and, although there were plenty of buses, it might be quicker to walk 20 minutes to work than take a chance on a bus, which would sometimes overtake my pedestrian efforts to avoid being late for work.

  • Richard Underhill
    You get that on a lot of routes in British towns and cities. London just has a huge number of people trying to get to and from work which can make getting from A to B a nightmare. Reserving a seat on the trains is also utterly pointless near the rush hours. London is like New York. It’s sort of a hub rather than a place. It’s like being at an airport a lot of the time.

  • If there is overcrowding on bus routes it illustrates the need for stronger regulation of the system.

  • Nonconformistradical 1st Mar '19 - 8:55am

    @Tom Harney
    “If there is overcrowding on bus routes it illustrates the need for stronger regulation of the system.”

    I’d have thought it illustrates the need for more buses.

  • Nonconformistradical,
    Or bigger buses or hover-boots , really flying rocket boots, Hovering would be awesome, but you wouldn’t get anywhere apart from sort of up a few feet in the air.

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