Gloucestershire County Council relies on geographic information to rationalise the county’s concessionary bus policy and assist the decision-making process for tendered bus services.
In April 2011, Gloucestershire County Council took on responsibility for concessionary bus travel from the district councils. It also had a requirement to reduce its annual bus subsidy from £5 million to £3 million whilst still enabling citizens to access essential services such as education, health, employment and market towns. Despite a significant reduction in back office transport staff (30%) major savings will be delivered by redesigning bus services from November 2011. Of 170 services that receive public support, 132 are under review, including many under-used services.
Using Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap® Integrated Transport Network™ (ITN) Layer and other mapping datasets, Gloucestershire County Council was able to accurately analyse the current provision of bus services (accessibility analysis). All routes were plotted, enabling decision-makers to see which communities would be most affected by changes to bus services and changes to the start time when bus passes can be used. This included before and after comparisons of the percentage of citizens with access to key services within 45 minutes travel time. In February, the Cabinet approved a discretionary policy allowing rurally-isolated communities to use bus passes before 9.30 am. This safeguarded an existing benefit for those most in need and avoided £300 000 of extra cost compared with a blanket policy for the whole county.
In August, the Cabinet approved a further £2 million of budget reductions from a redesigned bus network achieved by:
- Awarding contracts for 95 amended, in some cases improved, services.
- Taking a second look at 20 services.
- Redesigning or replacing 17 under-used routes with community transport.
- Providing more flexible transport such as Cheltenham’s V service.
- Removing duplication by creating a hub and spoke network.
Encouraging bus operators to take on many routes without subsidy
- Minimising transport route withdrawals.
- Maintaining free travel before 9.30 am for those most in need.
- 40% reduction in transport spend, saving £2 million.
- Transparent, informed, policy making and decisions.
- Better value for money and use of resources.