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A message to our key contact representatives - 11th October 2021

Documents referenced in Lee's letter

Main Bus Service Improvement Plan: (here)
Bus Service Improvement Plan (survey appendix): (here)

Option 24/7 Master Document: (here) (Updated 24th Sept 2021)
Schemes chosen for improvement with finance in the current financial year: (here) and (here)
Welcome letter of 9th September ((here))


Dear All,

Please find attached the latest draft of the Wiltshire Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). This evolves the earlier first draft of the BSIP that we sent you which was essentially ambitions, interventions and objectives in the form of a list of headlines, by expanding these out to explain what they would mean in practice, and including maps and other illustrative details that make it look far more like how the final BSIP will appear when it is sent to the Department for Transport. Some of this is based on the feedback that you have provided to us - Please don't however be unduly concerned if a particular part of your submission is not reflected in this draft. As you will appreciate, there is an awful lot to get through in a very short timeframe, and not everybody's input has yet been analysed.

Please also note that the BSIP will not contain the real nitty-gritty detail of the bus service timetables, fares, infrastructure etc that we would like to see introduced. These details will be discussed and negotiated during the next stage of the process - the Enhanced Partnership Plan phase - that we will provide direct input into between November 2021 and March 2022.

That said, the draft BSIP does contain some firm general commitments in terms of how Wiltshire bus services might look in the future. For example, there is a commitment that the frequency of town bus services should be at least 2 buses per hour, and in the case of Salisbury, that they should be "turn up and go". There is also a commitment to increase daytime frequencies and provide and/or increase Evening and Sunday services on interurban routes, and the town/city routes that support them. And there is a commitment to improve integration between bus and rail services, including improved frequencies and extensions of bus services to almost every railway station in Wiltshire. This would dovetail with the provision of "mobility hubs" designed to integrate with active travel modes such as cycling and walking at such locations, plus other key interchange locations that are non-rail served such as Devizes and Amesbury, for example.

Perhaps most importantly of all, there is an overarching commitment to make bus services substantially more regular than they currently are, and to strengthen the role of the bus in providing for all journey purposes. The extent to which that happens in reality will largely be down to the feedback and ideas that you and your bus users contribute. The role of us as Option 24/7 to help enable impartial continuing community feedback in order to improve bus service provision across Wiltshire is enshrined in the BSIP, and is why your ongoing engagement as our Key Contact Representatives is so very much appreciated.

The BSIP also contains an initial list of potential bus priority measures, which will be subject to further investigation, review and feasibility as part of the upcoming Enhanced Partnership Plan phase of the process.

In terms of ambition, we believe that this BSIP delivers. However, it is designed to be ambition that can be realistically delivered. You will be aware that there already was a pre-existing bus driver shortage, which is ongoing and currently worsening, partly due to bus drivers now leaving to join the HGV industry, whose salary levels are difficult for the bus industry to match. Therefore, we have agreed that it would be unrealistic for all the improvements we want to see to come at once in a "big bang" over a short time period. Instead, the plan is to introduce the list of the first round of bus service improvements that we sent you in the previous email - which are funded separately from the BSIP process - in Spring/Summer 2022. From that point onwards, an ongoing review of all Wiltshire and Cross Border bus services will begin, focusing on 4 bus corridors at a time, on how to use BSIP funding to improve and market bus services and infrastructure on those corridors. You and your bus users will be fully consulted throughout this process, and the feedback and ideas that you and your bus users contribute will be a key determining factor in how the bus services and infrastructure are developed going forward.

Finally, a word on the interaction of the BSIP with how it will be funded, both now and in the future. Many have asked how the improvements can be made sustainable should the flow of government funding slow or stop in the following future years. The BSIP makes a key commitment on this - Wiltshire Council will continue to develop the kind of alternative funding streams that will facilitate the first round of bus service improvements outside of BSIP money, and will also commit to utilising its own funds to support the continued implementation of the BSIP.

In a similar vein to what we asked of you in the first email, what we would like you all to do is to look at each of the proposed ambitions, interventions and objectives contained within the latest Draft BSIP, and provide us with some thoughts and feedback on the following via return email:

- Which of the proposed ambitions, interventions and objectives you agree with in regard to the needs of your area

- Which of the proposed ambitions, interventions and objectives you disagree with in regard to the needs of your area

- Which of the proposed ambitions, interventions and objectives could be altered or expanded to better reflect the needs of your area

- Whether there are additional ambitions, interventions and objectives not currently included in the draft that could better reflect the needs of your area

Once again, we have the agreement of Wiltshire Council to share the attached documents as widely as we wish to whomsoever we wish. Please do feel free to do exactly that in order to gain the widest possible insight from within your communities to inform your replies. We very much look forward to receiving them. However, we would this time ask if you could provide your thoughts as soon as realistically possible, given that the Final BSIP must be submitted to the Department for Transport by the end of this month, and will likely be sent a few days ahead of that absolute deadline.

Best Regards
Lee Fletcher
Option 24/7
http://option247.uk/