Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Bus Strategy consultation guide

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA)  is asking regional residents to share their views on its bus strategy. Its vision is for a “comprehensive network of bus services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough that people find convenient, easy to use, reliable and good value for money, that is inclusive and offers a viable alternative to the car.”

The Authority aims to more than double bus passenger journeys compared to 2019 levels, to around 60-75 million. Its strategy document does not contain details on specific bus routes or services but instead sets out the “strategic aims, objectives, and aspirations of the Combined Authority [which will enable it] to bid for further funding and shape the network to meet the needs of the people of the region”. 80% of those that responded to the CPCA’s survey on buses wanted to see improvements (both bus users and non-bus users) and the CPCA believes better public transport will be essential to support the region’s other goals, for example tackling climate change, reducing inequality and delivering sustainable growth.

We encourage you to have your say. Share your views before the consultation closes on Friday 24 February at
Two double-decker buses in Cambridge

Consultation response guide

The following recommendations and comments may help you with your response. (Download the guide as a pdf here).

Introduction (page 1 & 2)

These sections of the survey require personal answers as they ask about age, location and how often you use a bus.

Bus strategy vision (page 3)

The CPCA’s vision is for “a comprehensive network of bus services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough that people find convenient, easy to use, reliable and good value for money, that is inclusive and offers a viable alternative to the car.” It says it wants to “create a more connected region, which will encourage active and sustainable travel, improve health and wellbeing and reduce private vehicle journeys.” You can read more about the vision on page 9 of the bus strategy document.

Q5) How much do you agree with the Vision of the Bus Strategy?
Please explain why, if you wish, and add any other comments you may have.

Our suggested response: AGREE

Our reasoning:
We cannot recommend a ‘Strongly Agree’ response as the vision does not encompass everything we would expect to see in a comprehensive bus strategy.

Our comments:
This strategy should be more ambitious.

Doubling bus passengers by 2030 sounds unambitious given the recent cuts, the impacts of the pandemic and the reduction of car miles required by that date (15%).

In order for this vision to be achievable the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority will need to bring buses back under public control. This should be explicitly explained in the vision.

Transitioning to new, low emission vehicles, providing all the benefits of modern bus travel” sounds weak compared to the strategies in other cities. For comparison, the vision for the West Midlands says: “A world-class integrated, reliable, zero emission transport system providing inclusive travel for all”. Cambridgeshire’s bus strategy should be at least as good as other places.

The strategy also fails to adequately integrate with other local travel strategies.

This vision should include everything listed as well as:

  • There must be safe, speedy and accessible pedestrian movement between bus stops and between buses and other transport modes e.g. trains. All stops should be connected to a footway, suitable for use by passengers using wheelchairs or other mobility aids;
  • All stops should display real-time timetable and key fare information and a location-named bus stop flag with the phrase ‘Towards [key destination(s)]’.
  • Wherever possible a shelter, with seating and lighting should be provided.
  • Key edge-of-town and edge-of-village locations should be developed as ‘travel hubs’ with secure cycle-parking and interchange facilities with demand-responsive transport.
  • Reliable bus services that users can trust are required.
  • Buses must be fully accessible for all kinds of disabilities and be able to accommodate multiple wheelchairs.

In addition the aspiration of “Buses are part of a fully integrated and planned transport system” should explicitly mention cycling and walking including safe routes to bus stops and secure, accessible cycle parking.

Bus strategy aims (page 4)

The aim of the CPCA Bus Strategy is to “pave the way for a bus network that is convenient, attractive, and easy to
use. The strategy and survey give details on each of these three aims. Read more on page 10 of the bus strategy document.

Q6) How much do you agree with the Aims of the Bus Strategy?
Please explain why, if you wish, and add any other comments you may have.

Our suggested response: STRONGLY AGREE

Our reasoning:
We strongly agree, however we think these aims are vague and very open to interpretation. There is no clarity about how success will be measured which is vital if service providers are to be held to account.

Our comments:
The document refers to a table about frequency which is not present in the document. Without this included we cannot express support for any frequency. ‘Frequent’ will inevitably mean different things on different services.

There needs to be a rationale for ‘range of tickets’. Having a ‘range’ should not be prioritised over simple ticketing that can be easily understood by all users.

There must be a clear definition of ‘evening’. It is essential that buses are available for hospitality and shift workers. Service hours must be specifically stated.

Rural routes should meet or exceed the aspirations of the CPRE’s ‘Every village, every hour’ campaign.

There should be a commitment to ‘no stranded passengers’ including avoiding overlong journeys owing to delays and missed connections.

The strategy states that “all areas are well served by bus”. Once again, this is a vague aim that is open to interpretation. a clear definition of “well served” must be provided.

The aims the CPCA has stated here are by and large sensible. We believe that the core elements for an attractive bus service are:

  • Reliable (times and places)
  • Staff are customer-focussed
  • Buses are of a good and comfortable standard

When these standards are met the CPCA will have the opportunity for authentic marketing of buses as an attractive travel choice.

The strategy should view the concept of ‘easy’ from the perspective of a visitor to Cambridgeshire with no prior experience of our bus service. Would a visitor find it easy to find out how to use our buses, where and when our buses travel and how ticketing works?

The point “Buses run at regular time intervals and with consistent frequencies” is crucial – people must be able to rely on the bus departing and arriving on time (with real time information if things go wrong).

The point “Ability for people to transfer between bus and other travel modes (walk, cycle, e-scooter, car, coach, train)” should elaborate on what the transfer experience should be like. For example – transfer safely, easily and affordably. It should also elaborate on the impact that ticketing systems will have on transfers. There should be shared ticketing so that new tickets are not required when transferring across operators and transport modes.

This section should also include the aim of simplicity. Passengers should be certain that they have the best/most suitable ticket and route without complex comparison of options.

Delivering the bus strategy (page 5)

In this section, the CPCA sets out four principles which “underpin our approach to delivering the bus service improvements in this Strategy”. Read more on pages 11-12 of the bus strategy document.

Our suggested response: AGREE

Our reasoning:
We agree with the direction of the principles for delivery however, once again, they are too vague to ensure accountability. It must be clear that successful delivery will require franchising and road space reallocation.
(Franchising – requiring operators to bid to run bus routes – offers the best way of re-regulating buses, gives the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority power to set fares and timetables, and will also permit profitable routes to cross-subsidise routes which cannot cover costs from farebox revenue.)

Our comments:
Principle 1: Achieving a continuous cycle of passenger growth and service improvement
Growth in passenger numbers/journey numbers is essential to maintain the income to sustain the bus service.

The strategy should explicitly state that bus priority measures are about prioritising buses over other motor vehicles so that there is road space for buses to flow. Investing in buses that will be constantly stuck in traffic will be pointless.

Bus prioritisation strategies must be in line with the Road User Hierachy (which prioritises active travel and public transport over
private motor cars) and must be considered with other transport strategies like the Sustainable Travel Zone. Bus priority must not be at the expense of active travel.

Principle 2: Using the best operational model of provision to achieve the necessary step change in the most effective way
This principle should be rewritten in language that is meaningful to bus users and free of corporate jargon.

This strategy must be clear about how bus driver recruitment and retention will be improved. There should be more information about better conditions, pay, career progression and flexible working hours for bus drivers.

The operational model must also consider partnership and on this issue the CSTA strongly recommends franchising.

Principle 3: Partnership
For bus services to be sustainable and this vision achievable there must be increases in passenger numbers. The strategy must be clear about how it will be delivered: our view is that franchising will be required.

Principle 4: Integration
This principle must elaborate on improvements being made possible by integration with other transport strategies (e.g. Cambridge City Access). Buses can’t run at regular time intervals with consistent frequencies unless priority measures allow them to avoid traffic jams.

Our strategies (page 6)

In this section, the CPCA asks respondents to prioritise the strategies laid out on pages 12-15 of the bus strategy document.

Q8) How would you prioritise our strategies?
Please explain why, if you wish, and add any other comments you may have.

Our recommended answer:
All of the above strategies are vital in persuading people to switch travel modes and ‘trust the bus’. Is it appropriate to rank them when all the aspects are needed to work/balance with each other? All are required for a satisfactory bus experience and growth in bus journeys.However, given the need to rank, this is the order we would suggest:

  1. Information and getting the message out
  2. Bus services for rural areas
  3. Value for money and simple, integrated ticketing
  4. An integrated coherent network linking people to the places they want to get to
  5. Getting to places quickly and on time
  6. Bus services that people want to get on
  7. Delighting customers

Our comments:

  1. Bus information (fares, timetables, places served and stop locations) is currently very poor. This will be a quick, easy and cheap improvement.
  2. People unable to drive, or otherwise without a car, in rural areas are cut off from employment, educational, cultural and social opportunities.
  3. There is, currently, a confusing range of tickets, mainly valid only on one operator’s services, and queries to the driver about ‘best value’ delay boarding and lengthen journey times. They also discourage bus travel.
  4. Operator maps must show other operators’ services. There should be clear journey planning information with multi-operator ticketing and recognised interchange points.
  5. Getting to places quickly and on time seems dependent upon the points above.
  6. Bus services that people want to get on’ are dependent upon the factors above.
  7. ‘Delighting customers’ is an outcome if all the strategies above are effective.

Final comments (page 7)

Q9) Do you [have] any further comments on the Bus Strategy?

Our comments:
The strategy document and the consultation survey are poor quality with missing information and mismatched text between the strategy and survey. The survey fails to be accessible to many people, with the Bus Strategy Document having poor compatibility, in places, with screen-readers used by people with limited vision. The survey is, thereby, at a risk of not considering all user experiences when further developing the Combined Authority’s strategy.

There are no references in the Bus Strategy document to ‘disabled/disability’, ‘hearing loss’, ‘deaf’, ‘visual disability’, ‘sight loss’, ’blind’, ‘reduced mobility’ or ‘mobility aids’ nor other coginitive impairments. This suggests that the needs of a huge swathe of potential bus users have been disregarded. Design for all should make the service easy to understand for everyone.

The strategy is disappointing in its lack of vision and of specific aims and strategy for ensuring that bus services are fully accessible to people living with disabilities. There must be a clear strategy about accessibility.

The strategy must be explicit about pursuing bus franchising as the crucial step to improving bus services. (See the Cambridge Area Bus Users explainer: Bus Franchising, Quality Partnerships, and other ways of Improving bus services.)

The strategy must go beyond the bus stop and include access to the bus stop by connecting with wider strategies for pavements, pedestrian networks, cycling infrastructure and cycle parking.

While well-used buses running on fossil fuels are still better than private cars, there must still be a strategy to move to zero emissions which seems to be missing from this document.

Share your views before the consultation closes on Friday 24 February at