Committee calls for new approach to Bucks public transport

County councillor and select committee chairman Warren Whyte
County councillor and select committee chairman Warren Whyte

A new and flexible approach to the county’s public transport is the call from a council committee after a study into transport services.

The council’s cross-party environment, transport and localities select committee has urged the cabinet to support the setting up of an integrated transport unit as part of a joined-up approach to the annual £25 million investment in all transport services.

The recommendation follows an in-depth study of the county’s public transport during the past six months.

Councillors say a fresh, joined-up, long-term strategic vision for public transport over the next 20 years will better serve residents’ needs and new policies should break the ‘bus is best’ thinking that currently drives the allocation of funding.

Select committee chairman Warren Whyte said: “The image of public transport is so heavily focused on buses that other options, such as taxis and community transport, are viewed merely as ‘alternative’.

“This makes it difficult to shift the mindset towards a wider view.”

The committee also heard evidence of young people in rural communities across the county having to share taxis to get to social events because they were more flexible and cheaper than buses.

It was suggested by the committee that there is a strong case for county council leadership in driving better community transport schemes - and more of them - to increase local on-demand services in areas commercial operators are unable to serve.

They added there was a missed opportunity to strengthen support for a taxi token scheme to more closely target the needs of disabled residents.

The only scheme currently in Bucks is run by Aylesbury Vale District Council.

Evidence of a disconnect between different transport sectors was also heard by the committee who say this results in a failure to identify and exploit opportunities for links between community and commercial routes.

Identifying these gaps has not been easy because it has not been possible to map all 66 community transport schemes in the county to see where they touch mainstream services the committee heard.

With diminishing resources and tighter budgets, Mr Whyte said the select committee saw the best future in integrated transport services for Bucks that were overseen from a central point to get the best value for money and ensure all partners worked together effectively and more efficiently.

He said: “Public transport has worked in the past to meet people’s needs.

“But people’s employment, health and leisure needs are changing and we need to respond to this to help shape a joined-up and flexible approach that will meet our needs into the 2020s.”

The report will be presented to the cabinet on November 10.