Cheshire East Council wants to hear your views on additional criteria for deciding which bus services in the borough it gives financial support to.
This consultation is not a review of the current buses operating in Cheshire East. It's about the criteria we use to decide which bus services in the borough the Council gives financial support to, and which we do not.
The council has a budget of £2.4m to spend on bus routes that are not seen as commercially viable by bus operators but are still deemed as important to run.
This financial support for bus services is prioritised using a set of 10 criteria adopted in August 2011, which help to deliver the following key objectives:
● Supporting the economy and environmental sustainability;
● Improving access and social inclusion; and
● Bus service performance.
At highways and transport committee in November 2022, it was agreed there is a need to update the criteria to reflect the council's current corporate priorities, policy objectives in the council's local transport plan (LTP), the needs of local communities and the challenges facing the bus industry following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The council is now asking the public for their view on three new criteria, which are proposed to be added to the existing ten. They are:
● Contribution to carbon reduction: To consider bus service carbon emissions, in line with the council's environment strategy and the authority's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025 and its further pledge to make Cheshire East a carbon neutral borough by 2045;
● Areas of deprivation covered by the bus route; and
● Passenger numbers since the Covid pandemic
Councillor Craig Browne, chair of Cheshire East Council's highways and transport committee, said: "It is more than 11 years since the current bus support criteria were adopted. In that time, the travel needs of local communities have changed, the bus industry has changed significantly, and new transport strategies have been published, both nationally and locally.
"There is a need to reflect these changes in the council's bus support criteria so that the framework for decision making is appropriate and supports the council's strategic priorities for economic growth, environmental sustainability, social inclusion and health and wellbeing.
"Given ongoing cost and funding pressures, there is uncertainty affecting both supported and commercial bus services in Cheshire East – especially as current levels of patronage are only around 80-85 per cent of pre-Covid levels, with concessionary passenger levels at about 65-70 per cent.
"It is therefore important to have a robust framework in place to prioritise expenditure – recognising that the council does not have the funds to support all services that residents might wish to access – and deliver maximum value for money for our council taxpayers."
The decision-making framework relates to the council's provision of fixed route, scheduled bus services, to supplement the network that can be provided commercially. Any consideration of the role of flexible, demand responsive transport, such as FlexiLink and Go-Too is the subject of further reports to the council's highways and transport committee.
Cllr Browne added: "I would urge everyone to take part in this public consultation.
"It is important to stress that this consultation is not a review of the current buses operating in Cheshire East.
"Rather, this consultation is about the criteria we use to decide which bus services in the borough we give financial support to, and which we do not."
The public consultation on the council's additional bus support criteria runs until 6 August. You can complete the consultation online at: https://surveys.cheshireeast.gov.uk/s/BusSupportCriteria23/