£17m bus pot at risk

Andy D'Agorne on a York Wheels bus
Andy D’Agorne on a York Wheels bus

Over a year since York formally established an ‘Enhanced Bus Partnership’ to transform bus services in the city, the operational body in charge is failing to deliver key measures as we pass the half way point in the 3 year project, and risks wasting a large part of the £17m  government funding according to leading Green Andy D’Agorne.

The council Executive approved the three year plan in Sept 2022 https://www.itravelyork.info/downloads/file/93/york-ep-plan-final with targets by 2024-25 to see a 25% increase in passenger numbers, a 40% increase in journeys by young people, a 30% increase in park and ride travel, peak journey times on busiest routes to cut travel times by 2 minutes, most frequent routes to be no more than 45 sec late on average.

“These are ambitious targets, that require much more than a poorly promoted discount offer here and there. Major changes were proposed that should tackle congestion and end the haemorrhaging of Partnership funds which are currently being approved to maintain vital services which operators say are no longer viable” said Andy

“The Operational Board which makes decisions on use of the funding meets four times a year, as a private conversation between bus company representatives and council officers, to determine how the money is being spent. So far the majority of funding agreed has effectively been handed back to the companies to continue to run loss making services.” said Andy, the former Executive Member for Transport who approved the measures in the package of government funding as part of the previous Executive.

 “ I am not the only one concerned at the lack of progress and the secrecy. The Enhanced Partnership Forum (the grouping of passenger and civic society representatives set up as part of Government funding rules to oversee progress) and York Bus Forum have been pushing similar concerns for months, struggling even to get access to minutes or meeting dates confirmed. Additional staff are now in post, but we need to ramp up changes to transform our bus services.”

The Operational Group minutes have still not been posted to the public website since Jan 2023 when some £700k was approved. Since then there’s been further funding approved and spent to retain several bus routes and a summer and autumn young people’s discount scheme (with somewhat limited promotion). The Programme of changes to 5 park and ride sites to allow links to inter-urban bus services and overnight parking was due to see the first one running by now. A major multi million pound marketing campaign was due to have been completed when the contract hasn’t even been awarded yet. A package of measures to cut bus delays has not yet begun, with the city centre movement study not even due to be reported to the Operational group and the council until Jan 2024.   

According to the EP policy that the council approved a year ago, there should be a complete review of progress, published at the end of October each year. Andy has asked for this to be made available at the November meeting of the EP Forum (Nov 10th) . However the draft minutes of the most recent Operational Delivery Group (Oct 20th) suggest ‘no changes are needed to the plan’ yet give absolutely no indication of any assessment of progress delivering against the targets set for the scheme which they suggest should be reported in January 2024.

“The government has allocated serious funding against some ambitious measures which so far show very little sign of being delivered, with serious implications for the long term future of bus services in York.” said Andy.

“The process of establishing the Partnership was complicated by the need to follow the government regulations, but every further delay now means more funds going into funding slow unreliable services rather than making the step change we urgently need to see happen”.

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