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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Buses: Hebden Bridger Action Group formed following public meeting

Buses public meeting

Photo: Paul Clarke - click image to enlarge

The public meeting on the buses at Hebden Bridge Town Hall attracted around 40 people who have decided to form a Hebden Bridger Action Group. The meeting was organised by Duncan Watson. Following the meeting (and extensive discussion on the HebWeb Forum) he has sent the following letter to Dave Pearson at Metro.

Dear Dave,

As you will be aware there was a public meeting held in Hebden Bridge last night about the proposed alteration to the services affecting Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and surrounding Parishes' bus services. I am sorry that your prior committment meant you were unable to attend and that no-one else from Metro attended.

There was a strong turnout for the meeting (circa 40 people) with lots of important contributions with a third or more of those present speaking. We have agreed to form an action group Hebden Bridger Action Group (HBAG) in order to engage collectively with the consultation process.

I note from earlier communication that you would like to meet with our group's representative, and I am keen to take you up on that offer. There was a strong feeling at the meeting that it would be useful for there to be more than one of us at that meeting with you - with ideally someone who could speak in an informed way about each of bus services. I will cover the E service and I will liaise with the rest of the group about representatives for the other routes - I hope this is still acceptable? Is one of the 9th, 11th or 12th of September at 19:30pm in a venue in Hebden Bridge a time you can make?

Further to the above I am conscious that the consultation period is currently scheduled to finish on 9th September - it would be useful at this point if that consultation period could be extended by a further month. Our group would like the opportunity to meet again once our representatives have met with you so that we can discuss and decide upon our collective response to the proposals and consultation once we the representatives have had the opportunity to feedback to the group as a whole on our interaction with you. Given the short window for the initial consultation period and that we are in the middle of the holiday season it is not practical for Metro to fully engage with HBAG in the current timeframe. Please can you advise whether Metro will extend the consultation period?

Broad consensus from our meeting last night was that HBAG would like direct input on a number of areas under consideration including the timetabling and proposed routes of the services, and the substance of the tender process (including the way in which the tender and ultimate procurement process will put strictures on the type, accessibilty, space, size and number of buses used by those who are to run the services). Our group could provide valuable insight into these issues and also have important considerations that we feel a transparent consultation process ought to engage with and have an open dialogue around. I hope that we can have this level of engagement with Metro when we meet in early September and that an extended consultation period will enable the HBAG representatives with whom you meet to feedback the outcome of that dialogue to the rest of our group and give us further opportunity to respond before the end of the consultation period.

There were a number of other considerations that came up at our meeting and I will not be able to do justice to them all here (again the need for an extended consultation that enables us to respond individually and as a group again once our representatives have met). But I summarise some of the further thoughts/questions that arose below:

A member present who runs a bus service advised that there are buses on the market that are equivalent in size to those that are currently used (specifically equivalent to the older buses that have been running successfully around the majority of the routes over many years rather than the slightly larger buses that have more recently been introduced). Could such buses be used on the new services and if not why not?

Members of the group present stated that the school buses (which are of the larger size that have more recently been introduced and so are presumably also readily available) can adequately run the Dodnaze/Old Town routes as well as the E and Cragg Vale routes. Why are these not being considered for the proposed changes with perhaps smaller buses for those routes that do clearly need them?

What lessons has Metro learned from the tender process that resulted in the early termination of Tyrer's contract for the services on the Hebden Bridger routes and how are these lessons proposed to be incorporated in the new tender process?

What consideration is being paid to through-ticketing options? (So e.g. one ticket can be used on the newly tendered services as well as those that run through to Halifax or Todmorden).

And a key question that I noted above we would be keen to have involvement with in shaping the tendering process is how accessibilty will be addressed/affected for users such as those who use wheelchairs, have difficulty climbing steps, use pushchairs etc.

There are currently a number of periods in the day when greater than 16 people use a particular bus and these periods - what is Metro doing to ensure that people do not have to wait half and hour or an hour for a further bus because of undercapacity?

It would also be useful for us to understand the level of subsidy that Metro currently provides to service operators in the affected routes and the degree of financial freedom that Metro has to extend that level in order that a fully effective service might be procured.

Many thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to the above questions - I will be sure to feed the answers back to our group.


See also:

HebWeb Forum: Metro Bus Service Consultation July-August 2013

HebWeb Forum: Proposed Bus Changes (April-May 2013)

HebWeb Forum: Bus problems, again (Nov 2012 - Feb 2013)

HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Bus Services Consultation, over proposed changes from April 2013

HebWeb Forum: Hebden Bridger bus problems again! (February-September 2012 - 139 messages)