Proposal one: Increasing the number of residents using the service
The new Community Transport service is expected to operate for a term of between 5 to 7 years, to reflect the economic life of vehicles being used. However it is important that the contractual arrangements allow flexibility, so that the new service can alter or grow during this time to meet changing needs, whilst adhering to public procurement regulations.
The existing Community Transport service operates a borough wide service based on demand. Community Transport operates mainly to and from adult day care centres, community centres, supermarkets and medical centres (for those not eligible for the NHS Patient Transport Service, visit the NHS West Midlands Ambulance Serivce website).
It is proposed that there will be an option to add future requirements to contracts, for example, transport routes to college for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN), rural transport routes and routes to medical centres.
This proposal will provide the potential to add extra routes and vehicles meaning that more people are able to access the service in the future. It may increase the overall vehicles provided but may reduce the availability of Community Transport at school times, for example.
In addition, it is proposed to offer communities interested in starting up their own volunteer Community Transport driver schemes support to set up. This would include advice from Officers on how to set up a scheme, and how to operate taking into account safety and legal regulations. In some cases, where a business case exists, the Council may also be able to provide some funding to help towards set up costs.
Proposal two: Reviewing routes in operation
Routes are in place across the borough for Community Transport with some areas currently receiving more services than others. Therefore there is a need to review routes to ensure fairness and equity of Community Transport services across the Borough. This proposal may mean reducing services in some areas (particularly where the same routes exist on multiple days of the week), in order to increase services in other areas where there is limited Community Transport available.
The nature of Community Transport is that transport routes are arranged around requests for transport received from residents (‘demand responsive’ transport). We propose to continue offering demand responsive routes. However we also propose to look at whether some regular routes would be more beneficial in some cases. Finally we propose to publish those regular routes, to support people planning their journeys.
Proposal three: Contributing to tackling the climate emergency
It is the Council’s ambition to become a carbon neutral borough by 2045. Therefore we propose to look at the options for using more environmentally friendly vehicles that are able to meet the needs of the Community Transport services provided (for example range of distance travelled).
The Council will also look at any opportunities to bid for Climate Emergency funding to support this proposal.
When reviewing routes, as proposed in Proposal two, we will also make our routes as efficient as possible, and reduce any unnecessary mileage.
Proposal four: Reviewing fares charged for the service
For passengers where a Care Act assessment identifies that the Council needs to ‘provide’ transport in order to access a care service, only proposals 1 – 3 apply. In these cases, charges for ‘provided’ transport will be determined through the Council’s Charging Policy and will be subject to a financial assessment.
Passenger fares for Community Transport contribute around 15% to the overall cost of providing the service. The remaining cost is met by Council subsidy of over £1 million per year.
The Council has not reviewed the current £5 fare per trip for community transport since 2015. The Council has a budget of £1 million per year to operate the service. If fares remain at the current level, the existing budget would fund fewer vehicles than are operated at present.
We would like to understand your views on what you consider to be a reasonable fare for Community Transport services. We would also like your views on annual fare reviews which may impact on changes to fares during the life of the contract.
The existing service also sees a large number of trips cancelled on the day, which results in empty seats where somebody else could have used it. The Council needs to ensure Community Transport is as efficient as possible when planning routes and serving different locations within our borough.
Therefore it is proposed to charge a fare for all trips booked, with the exception of those for which a minimum of 48 hours notice of cancellation is received. This proposal will give providers the opportunity to ensure that buses are well used and to reallocate resources where there are cancellations.
The Council also proposes to review the methods of booking, cancellations and payments, enhancing our digital offer by allowing booking and payments online, whilst retaining the ability to book over the phone and pay on bus.