Here I suppose we should keep the thread to route design.
Dear Mr Drax,
I have viewed on the BBC website your speech in parliament yesterday 29th April 2014 on rural bus services and I thank you for speaking so clearly and eloquently to raise those issues with your fellow MPs.
I am a town councillor for Halesworth in Suffolk and a volunteer with Halesworth Area Community Transport, one of the many community bus operators of which you spoke, as well as chair of my local community rail partnership. So I feel I am* dealing directly at the coal face of the rural transport problems you highlighted.
In terms of localism: I find great difficulty in enabling passenger participation in rural (or urban) route design.
A contributor to a recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on transport and accessibility to public services said:
"Too many authorities choose to ‘do things’ to communities rather than spend the time finding out what they actually need and want first ... local people should be correctly liaised with prior to any changes being made, it is them that have to live with any consequences and they should be listened to correctly about how they will be impacted but also so they properly shape services..."
Independently I had proposed a solution to this very problem at the following link which I kindly ask you to consider.
I posit that what passengers and communities need is free access to a software application that displays all the current bus, train and other public transport schedules and actual ground-covered routes in a given area on a simulator to visualise service and modal connections. On this they could enter proposed timetables and route variations so service alterations can be modelled and compared.
Another challenge facing the Community Transport Operator which you did not raise is the licensing of drivers and the cost of training volunteers to meet the EU driving standards (which incidentally were designed with countries which have no community transport systems of their own). The Community Transport Association has made many representations to ministers on this issue and there are informative papers in the House of Commons library.
I cannot find any statistics that support that volunteers in community transport that are D1 entitled (without PSV licenses) are any more dangerous than drivers who have had to take the PSV test. I recently took my PSV and it cost the taxpayer something in the region of £2500 for just one individual. This was the test fees and the travel and the subsistence for the three days of training I had. Yet we offer our own volunteers very much the same standard of training in-house through the MIDAS scheme, a good scheme for skilling our volunteers but which has no bearing on operating a minibus legally on the road.
(It appears to be the view of my local MP Dr. Therese Coffey that more funding for this PSV training is the way forward - to which I disagree).
Again, I outline the problem in detail at the link below. I have proposed a legislative work-around the EU barriers by adjustment of weight limits for a certain kind of transport service and I urge you to consider this issue and share it with those in parliament who are responsible for making the decisions that will solve the problems that you have thankfully raised.
*I should have also acknowledged local bodies like ESTA, The Going Green Partnership, Sustrans etc. who are very active locally.
P.S. I shall have to write again to Stephen Hammond The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport to address a few points. He obviously isn't getting it. In Suffolk the innovation he wishes for isn't coming from the councils and in my experience, they haven't been very supportive of innovation such as the Handy Bus model when it is presented to them.