The Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority have been considering options to deliver a new demand responsive bus service in isolated rural communities where the current absence of a service can make it difficult for residents to access essential services and employment opportunities.
The original proposal was for the new demand responsive bus service to provide better access for some of the rural communities in Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland, but the proposal has now been extended to include some of the rural communities in Stockton-on-Tees.
The demand responsive transport service is considered entirely consistent with the draft Strategic Transport Plan, which is currently out to consultation. The vision in the Plan is “To provide a high quality, clean, quick, affordable, reliable and safe transport network for people and freight to move within, to and from Tees Valley.” Furthermore, one of the three broad objectives in the Plan is “Social opportunity – Helping people access employment, education, healthcare, culture, leisure and retail locations and improving public health and wellbeing”.
The plan acknowledges that “There are rural areas of Tees Valley that are not well served by public transport services. It can therefore be difficult for non-car owners in these areas to access essential services and employment. Often it is not commercially viable to deliver bus services in these communities and we therefore need to be innovative in terms of how we consider future solutions, potentially through demand-responsive services and community-based initiatives”. There is also a commitment in the Plan to “Investigate whether Demand-Responsive Transport and community-based initiatives could be a solution to the problem of accessibility in rural areas”.
Furthermore, a 2017 report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Community Transport Association, entitled ‘The Future of Demand Responsive Transport’, states that “Demand responsive transport can make a significant contribution to the creation of better, more integrated local passenger transport networks that can meet more needs and be the first and best choice for making a journey”.
There is also evidence of demand responsive services working effectively across the country, including in Lincolnshire, Oxford and Liverpool.
Within the scheme, passengers can be collected from any location within a defined area for travel to a primary destination within the defined area, a secondary destination outside the defined area, or a hospital; returning passengers can be picked up at a primary destination, a secondary destination or a hospital and taken to any point in the defined area.
The primary destinations are predominantly villages/smaller towns, whilst the secondary destinations are predominantly larger towns/transport hubs including Teesside International Airport therefore facilitating onward travel by bus/rail/coach/air.
Customers can make a booking via an app or by phone. Customers will then receive a booking confirmation either via the “app” or through vocal confirmation if booked by phone. Customers will be able to pay in advance via the “app” or by cash/contactless on the vehicle. Services will be provided by a fleet buses, which will be fully wheelchair accessible.
A demand-responsive transport service will create better integration of peripheral areas within and across districts. Residents who currently have no public transport services will be provided with an enhanced mobility offer enabling them to access villages, towns and transport hubs facilitating onward journeys. In turn, this contributes to the Northern Powerhouse strategy of a better connected North, by improving the accessibility of key transport hubs, notably Darlington station (identified as a ‘gateway’ hub by Network Rail and Transport for the North.) All methods of transport in the Tees Valley will therefore be increased. The scheme will also enable journeys to/from Teesside International Airport, further projecting the global reach of Tees Valley residents.
The planned transport service will facilitate improved access to places of work, as well as key educational institutions and other sites. There is the potential to expand this pilot scheme to further destinations and areas if successful.
As a result of reduced road congestion, there will be a small benefit to businesses accruing from travel-time savings. Greater connectivity to urban centres, and in particular retail-intensive locations such as Darlington town centre, will have more general effects. This includes generation of greater footfall expenditure and therefore encouragement of further growth.
Encouraging usage of shared transport rather than private vehicles in rural localities could have the effect of reducing carbon emissions.
As a result of the proposed service, smaller rural and suburban areas will receive a higher profile as the ability to travel to and from them by public transport is increased. Perceptions of Tees Valley as a primarily urban location will therefore be adjusted, not only among residents but also among visitors and potential investors in the region.
The full business case for Demand-Responsive Transport is not for publication by virtue of paragraphs 1 and 2 of schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972
For any queries or comments on the project, please email email@example.com