A public transport watchdog has praised Surrey’s review of bus services and recommended other councils take notice.
Passenger Focus has produced a best practice guide for cash-strapped local authorities that need to reduce costs, amid what the organisation calls ‘the greatest financial challenge for the English bus industry in a generation’.
The independent watchdog used Surrey County Council’s bus review as an example of how to make savings while looking for ways to improve services.
Passenger Focus explained that Surrey’s bus review was the ‘most thorough and inclusive exercise’ it had seen. In particular, it praised the county council’s ‘excellent’ work in consulting with bus operators and passengers early in the process so they were able to shape changes.
The best practice guide also stated that authorities like Surrey which take a ‘proactive decision to review bus services, retain more freedom and flexibility to adapt their services, than those who wait until they are forced to do so’.
John Furey, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “From the beginning we were determined that passengers and operators should be at the heart of the bus review and I strongly believe this was one of its greatest strengths.
“We explained that the review wasn’t simply a cost cutting exercise. It was instead an opportunity to take a fresh look at the whole network and ensure buses are run where they were needed most and as efficiently as possible. We were able to achieve this while saving taxpayers £3.9 million on subsidy costs.”
Mike Hewitson, head of policy at Passenger Focus, said: “Bus services are a crucial part of the local community and are often a lifeline for passengers who have no alternative transport options. At a time of increasing pressure on transport budgets it is important that spending is focused on the things that matter most to passengers.
“Surrey County Council worked hard to engage and consult passengers and bus companies effectively during the decision-making process and, as a result, achieved a better final outcome for both the local authority and passengers.”
To read the best practice guide visit www.passengerfocus.org.uk.
Media requiring more information can contact Surrey County Council senior media relations officer James Oxley at firstname.lastname@example.org.