Flexi Bus Services in Breckland (Agenda Item 6)
To receive a presentation from Chris Limbach (Norfolk County Council).
The Chairman welcomed Mr. Chris Limbach of Norfolk County Council to the meeting, who was attending at the Panel’s invitation to advise members on the Flexibus scheme.
Leaflets giving details of the Flexibus services for the Wayland and Wymondham areas were circulated for members’ information.
Mr. Limbach explained that the Flexibus scheme had been developed over the last few years to meet the needs of the rural areas and to fill the gaps left by the withdrawal of or changes to certain other bus services. The Flexibus scheme offered facilities for journeys to work, school and college and was available between the hours of 9.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. for demand response travel, i.e. people could ring and book a journey in advance, thus offering the areas served the opportunity to travel five days a week and connections to other bus and rail services.
Following the recent changes to the First Bus X3 and X4 services, National Express had agreed to join the concessionary bus fares scheme to cover the X4 route and this new service was settling down and running well. Seats were subject to availability.
Funding for the Flexibus scheme was met by the transfer of funding from the withdrawn services and for the school contract from the Education budget.
It was worthy of note that, including school and college travel, the Wayland Flexibus scheme had passed 1000 passengers and the numbers of people using he service was steadily increasing.
During the following discussion, members highlighted areas of the District where rural villages were very poorly served by public transport and where services were needed, particularly for old and young people. The lack of evening bus services was also a problem, particularly for young people.
Mr. Limbach explained that the scale of need across the County meant there were limits on what could be achieved in the short term. The County Council was looking to introduce three new Flexibus schemes during 2008 (including one covering the area around North Walsham and one covering the Fakenham/Holt area) and North Norfolk was also a key action area. In the Breckland District, the East Harling was a potential area for a future scheme but it was unlikely that could be achieved in the next financial year.
So far as evening transport for young people was concerned, the County Council was currently running various Leisure and Learning Link schemes in a number of centres. Funding for these schemes was due to run out at Easter 2008 and therefore most of these were unlikely to continue. However, the possibility of extending the scheme at Dereham was being considered, as this was one of the most successful and funding was being investigated for this. The scheme at Watton had been very under-used.
Bus operators were also being encouraged to offer reduced fares to the16 – 19 year age group and one operator offered this, which had been well taken up.
Mr. Limbach agreed that rural villages were ideally suited to Flexibus schemes. He thought that over the next five years or so, people would see more schemes developed to meet need but it needed to be recognised that this was a large undertaking dependent on funding.
Mr. Limbach confirmed he was happy to accept invitations to come and talk on the matter at Parish Council meetings.
The Chairman thanked Mr. Limbach for attending and hoped that it would be possible to collaborate further to improve rural bus services in the future.