Notes From A New Councillor: Bus Services Motion Passes!

I wanted to post an update to the blog I wrote in August on the poor bus provision in Oxfordshire due to cuts in bus subsidies.

There are two parts to this story – the motion I moved on Tuesday to Full Council which passed unanimously – hooray! – and how I got the motion to its final form.

We’ll start with the second part, as that was the real journey for me as a new councillor.  I had originally submitted this motion for September full council, but we ran out of time so it was re-submitted for November’s meeting.  I assumed, wrongly, that as everyone had seen the motion in print, it was good to go.

But no, it wasn’t. There was first a flurry of emails from my group, with great suggestions to tighten it up.  But I had already re-submitted it and the motion had been approved by the OCC legal counsel. I did not want to be difficult and play around with the words.

Last week, the agenda was published, with the motion, only to be followed by another flurry of emails and phone calls from the Conservative cabinet member who was keen on making sure the motion passed.  I agreed a new wording of the motion with him, after quite a lot of work over the weekend, only for it to be rejected by his group.  So back to the original motion.

I then found out the day before the full council meeting that the Conservatives had submitted an amendment to the original motion – at the last minute – requesting some fairly minor word changes but agreeing to most of the text. I took the decision to accept these changes, reasoning it was better to get a bus motion passed than nothing at all.

So the process of writing, redrafting, incorporating my group’s views, and working with other parties to make it acceptable to them, was a very steep learning curve. Looking back, the lessons I’ve learned will certainly help the next time I put a motion in for debate.

Here is the motion as passed:

Oxfordshire’s growing population includes increasing numbers of both very young people and those of retirement age. Both groups are key users of public transport and especially buses. Public transport has proven environmental benefits in supporting the county’s move towards a low-carbon future.

The Council calls on Cabinet to work towards:

  • a set of principles whereby every resident has access to daily public transport. Not only would this help promote the development of communities, integrate society and allow both young and old to reside anywhere in the county, it would also be in line with the Local Transport Plan whereby “accessible bus connections will enable disabled people, the elderly and those unable to drive to travel more.”
  • creating a spider-web of bus networks within the county, with key hubs linking the strands. These hubs, serving the rural villages, would be intrinsic to connecting our towns and Oxford city. The buses would range in sizes, from minivans to full-scale buses, depending on demand.

This Council asks Cabinet to write to bus companies encouraging them to run a hub network in which all bus services should be frequent and reliable. Differing operating models such as co-operative, mutual and social enterprise models should be encouraged in providing these services with new technological innovations, for example app-based hail-n-ride, can be part of the solution.

And some bits from my speech:

Good bus services promote community, they integrate society, they allow young people to continue to live in villages.

Good bus services reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, all whilst providing a service many need.

But what we have now is disabled people and elderly people isolated, dependent on friends or limited local transport initiatives. I know of one adult with autism in Horspath who is not accessing his day groups. It took years of travel training to enable him to take the bus independently. Now there is no bus for him to take. Just one story of many I have been hearing in my first months as County Councillor.

Another elderly resident in Wheatley, who used to get the bus which went through Littleworth, is now stuck at home.  She told me she does ask friends for help when she has to get to an appointment, but doesn’t feel like she can constantly ask friends for lifts to groups she used to attend. And further, elderly friends who used to visit her by bus can no longer get to her house for visits.

…The many community initiatives which have tried to plug the gap, whilst laudable, have not filled all the gaps. The county needs to integrate all our transport provision, including school transport and day-care transport with local transport, consolidating funds to provide economy of scale in transport solutions.  Co-operative, mutual, social enterprise and not-for-profit models are to be encouraged in providing a comprehensive transport service.

…I wish to end by giving an example of two of the modern initiatives used by Essex County Council.

Demand Responsive Transport is provided by a number of minibus vehicles, typically accommodating between 8 and 16 passengers. They are totally flexible and can divert on and off route to collect and drop off passengers within their operating area. The current demand responsive or DaRT service works by grouping bookings together to make it viable.

Hail and Ride If a bus service operates as hail and ride it means you can signal to the bus driver that you wish to board the bus at any point along the road and the driver will stop where it is safe to do so.

As well as allowing the use of smaller roads less accessible to larger buses, a hail and ride scheme gives the advantage of not having to build bus stop infrastructure in order to introduce or vary a route.

An integrated approach to county-wide transport aids economic growth by providing transport to school, colleges, apprenticeships and jobs; reducing wear on our roads; reducing congestion; improving air quality; and promoting health and well-being for those otherwise isolated at home.

I urge you to accept this motion.

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5 Comments

  • Well done Kirsten, I particularly like the wording of the motion – very positive, practical and forward-looking.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Nov '17 - 12:16pm

    ” all bus services should be frequent and reliable.” Put a number on the frequency, such as 8 minutes. How long will people wait before they consider alternatives?

  • nvelope2003 9th Nov '17 - 1:19pm

    Has anyone any idea of the cost of providing a daily bus service for all residents, even in deep rural areas, particularly if frequencies such as every 8 minutes ( or even hourly) were required ? Answers please.

  • nvelope2003 10th Nov '17 - 8:44am

    No answers yet I see

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