On 16th July, the Borough Council’s Scrutiny Panel met with bus operators and bus users from across the Borough to review the performance of bus services.
Cllr Beverly Davies, Conservative Prettygate Ward and Chairperson of the Council's Scrutiny panel, commented on the very positive engagement between the Panel and the Bus users and operators: “Bus services are an important strategic issue for the Borough Council. It is identified in the Council’s Strategic Plan and priorities. The matter also links into other strategic priorities, such as addressing social isolation and improving public health.
Cllr Davies explained that the evidence collected in the review of bus services should be referred to the Council’s Cabinet in September, with an invitation for it to consider the evidence as part of a Borough-wide Public Transport Strategy.
At the Council’s Cabinet meeting on 4th September, Cllr Dennis Willetts (Lexden & Braiswick Ward) presented the Recommendation from the Scrutiny Panel for a Colchester Public Transport Strategy to the LibDem & Labour Cabinet: ”The Council wants to see less reliance on private cars and more reliance on bus services. But about half the population of Colchester Borough lives in communities and villages some distance from the urban centre of Colchester. With sporadic bus services, often infrequent and unreliable in rural areas, it is a difficult proposition to persuade more people to use the bus.”
The Council has tried a heavy-handed approach, increasing car parking charges, and reducing the number of car parking spaces by building offices on the car park sites. But this has had unintended consequences, with more residents from the outlying areas deserting Colchester Town centre, and visiting other towns that have a car-friendly policy.
Cllr Willetts continued “achieving a modal shift from car to bus will come at a cost. Residents will migrate to buses only if they are sure that there will be a frequent and reliable bus service from the villages into the town centre and back again, not just at peak times, but all day, from 6am to 11pm. And even if this quality service is provided, it will take some time before residents are really convinced it use it. The Council would need to accept that in the early days of this strategy, buses might be lightly used until they had established their track record as a dependable service.
The LibDem & Labour Coalition unanimously rejected any further consideration of a comprehensive Colchester Public Transport strategy on the grounds that it would not be one of their top spending priorities. They also claimed that the Garden Communities Rapid Transport System was all that would be needed.
Conservatives believe that a Public Transport Strategy is the way forward to develop better bus services to the town & villages