STAGECOACH IN EAST KENT BUS USER GROUPS
Stagecoach in East Kent has successful Quality Bus Partnerships with the county and district councils. Stagecoach in East Kent now seeks to extend its engagement with the local community by setting up Bus User Groups. Each QBP is asked to consider this implementation plan (and to amend it where appropriate) so that the Groups can be seen to contribute to the partnership dialogue and the progress being made to improve bus services and increase passenger numbers.
The purpose of these User Groups is to get constructive feedback and new ideas from a representative cross section of users about the range of services operated, the prices charged, the transport infrastructure (such as footpaths, crossings, bus stops and shelters) and the effectiveness with which the bus routes are provided on a day to day basis. The feedback given will be reported back to the QBP (and where appropriate from there to the JTB) and Stagecoach undertakes to respond to the issues raised, as well as putting forward issues for the group to comment on.
In addition the User Group is intended to provide a balancing voice to that of associations of drivers and traders who drive to work, and it is hoped that a member of the group will be prepared to act as a spokesman in wider discussions about transport policy. Hitherto Stagecoach in East Kent has attempted to represent user views, in the absence of a User Group, and this has tended to attract accusations of mere commercial self-interest.
It is proposed that the Bus User groups will meet as follows:-
· Quarterly, about two weeks before the QBP meeting so that minutes of the meeting and allocated actions can be fed back to the QBP meeting.
· At a town centre location accessible by bus (in some cases – such as Folkestone and Canterbury this can be a Stagecoach office – at others we may be grateful for the use of a local authority room) with refreshments provided.
· At circa 5pm so that panel members can be certain of catching a bus home whilst being able to fit the meeting into a working schedule – to be agreed by group membership.
· More frequently if an urgent issue needed to be considered (such as the consequences of a dramatic change to costs or funding).
It is proposed that the group should consist of:-
· A District Councillor who is a regular bus user (chair) who can be seen to provide a voice independent of the bus company and offer arbitration in the management of the group as well as representing it at the QBP meetings
· An officer of the county council involved in Transport Policy who can comment on policy matters
· The local Stagecoach Operations Manager, who will manage the meeting and be the primary point of contact for bus users
· Someone from Stagecoach who will take minutes of the meeting (in some cases the OM may need to do this)
· Bus users
In addition other occasional attendees would be requested to attend by the meeting or be proposed to present topics for consideration by the QBP partners. For example a county council officer might attend to illustrate changes to tendered service provision, or the Stagecoach Commercial Director might attend to illustrate plans for changes to the commercial network. Indeed it is assumed that the partners will use the group to test out the response to plans that are available in the public domain.
It is proposed that 8 Bus Users should be identified to create a total group of about 12 people, which would be of a manageable size, but also be workable if a number of members were absent. In East Kent the passenger split is roughly 25% children, 50% working age people (16-61), 25% senior citizens (62+). Therefore it is suggested that membership is made up of 2 young people, 4 adults and 2 senior citizens. This should perhaps ideally be subdivided as follows:-
· Young people – a representative of under 16s (preferably a sixth former from a school with younger pupils), a sixth form age representative
· Working age population – a current student, the parent of a child under 16, someone who doesn’t work 9-5 office hours and/or works at weekends
· Senior Citizen – someone with good mobility and with mobility problems
In addition it would be helpful when selecting people if the following personal circumstances were represented:-
• Internet users and non-internet users
• Smartphone user, old-style mobile phone user, non-mobile phone user
• A volunteer in a community project (eg guides/scouts)
• Slightly more women than men (as per customer base)
• Ethnic minorities
• Someone who speaks English as a second language
• Member of a car owning household
• Someone who also uses rail and someone who also cycles for transport
• Regular Megarider users
• A mixture of urban and rural dwellers from different parts of the district
• A mixture of commuters and leisure users
• Someone who attends the local Hospital regularly
• Someone with a registered mobility impairment affecting their use of transport
In Canterbury it would probably be useful if possible to extend the group to ensure that users from both the major Universities and Canterbury College were represented. Similar adjustments might be wise in the case of large employers and major educational sites with significant bus use.
Any elected members of organisations would appear as personal representatives rather than a formal representative of an association. Representation of formal bodies is best arranged through the QBP where decisions and policy are arrived at.
Recruitment would be via adverts on bus and through the Stagecoach web site as this is a clearly defined group of people to target. In addition an approach would be made to schools to nominate appropriate representatives for under 19s. Anyone expressing interest would be asked to say which of the categories above they represent. The membership would be reviewed and selected by the Operations Manager and the Chairman. Membership would be for 2 years, although turnover of student members would probably be annual.
The Chairman and Operations Manager would be able to select alternative members where an agreed member failed to attend. Any member conducting themselves in an unreasonable manner that might cause offence or anxiety to other members of the group could be suspended by the Chairman and Operations Manager.