2.1. On Monday 15 March 2021 Government launched Bus Back Better, a new National Bus Strategy for England with aims to rejuvenate local bus services by making them:

  • more attractive for passengers
  • more affordable
  • easier to understand and use
  • faster and more reliable
  • greener

2.2. Acknowledging the decades-long national decline in bus patronage and pointing to places which have bucked this trend, it requires each authority to produce a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to coordinate services and future investment through either an Enhanced Partnership (EP) or Franchise approach.

2.3. Each Local Transport Authority’s (LTA) BSIP will be a strategic document setting out how local bus operators and LTAs will work together to deliver the key themes outlined through Government’s National Bus Strategy. Specifically, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) National Bus Strategy: Bus Service Improvement Plans – Guidance to Local Authorities and Bus Operators (DfT, 2021, p30) states:

"the overall aim of the BSIP and its individual sections is to explain LTA ambition to improve buses and the plans and policies that will deliver them"

2.4. Through the first iteration of the BSIP process, each document is required to:

  • focus on delivering the bus network that LTAs (in consultation with operators) want to see, including how to address the underprovision and overprovision of bus services and ensuring buses integrate with other modes
  • set out how they will grow bus use
  • set out how they will be delivered

2.5. The detailed narrative set out within Dorset Council’s first BSIP, outlines, in as much detail as currently practicable, the LTA’s ambitions, structured plans and supporting policies to improve buses (service design, delivery and vehicles) across the geographic area covered by this BSIP.

2.6. Working in close collaboration with a large group of stakeholders representing local bus operators, statutory consultees, community and business voices, bus passengers, and the voluntary and health transport sectors Dorset Council has developed this BSIP that is focused on delivering a future ready bus network.

2.7. The resultant new policies and deliverables within this BSIP address identified under and over-provision of the bus network across the LTA area. Extensive stakeholder engagement has driven the solutions detailed within the following sections following the work identifying the current state of network provision, functionality, and shortcomings.

2.8. This BSIP, prepared by Dorset Council (DC) sets out ambitious targets for network growth (mileage operated); passenger growth; improved punctuality and reliability; improved accessibility; increases in the mode share of bus; and greater customer satisfaction amongst others.

2.9. The work completed in preparing this initial BSIP provides a traceable path of action from the current state network to that desired by the council, and that seen as a priority by the public and engaged stakeholders. The BSIP provides a series of deliverable activities aimed at to revitalising the local bus passenger market and growing network mileage, which will be delivered against targets set for mileposts in 2025 and 2030.

2.10. This BSIP has been finalised and submitted to the DfT in line with current BSIP guidelines. However, greater detail relating to specific policies and deliverables outlined later within this BSIP will follow the submission of this document after October 2021. Many of these policies and deliverables will require further consultation, particularly regarding bus priority schemes, and all policies and deliverables set out within this BSIP are subject to funding being identified.

Relationship with Enhanced Partnership

2.11. The council has adopted the EP pathway, with this decision already being notified to the DfT, local bus operators and members of the public in accordance with DfT requirements by the end of June 2021.

2.12. The BSIP forms the first stage of the EP process, a statutory arrangement under the Transport Act 2000 (as amended by the Bus Services Act 2017), and a formal agreement between the council and local Dorset bus operators. Information relating to the creation and operation of an EP has been set out by the DfT through its guidance document: The National Bus Strategy Delivering Bus Service Improvement Plans using an Enhanced Partnership (DfT 2021).

2.13. Whilst the option to explore feasibility of bus franchising remains open to the council, this approach is not currently being considered.

Duration and Review of the BSIP

2.14. As outlined by the DfT, each BSIP is a living document and as such has no formal date limits. However, each BSIP is subject to an annual review and the council will produce an update report on progress against targets on an annual basis with additional six-monthly interim updates.

2.15. All BSIP reviews will be reported to the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee and made publicly available. Updates will also be provided to cabinet by the Lead Member for Environment, Travel and Harbours.

Alignment with Wider Council Transport Policy, Strategy, and Plans

2.16. To ensure the benefits of the BSIP are maximised, the council has conducted a root and branch review of national and local policy and strategy. This ensures the BSIP provides a good fit with each element and identifies any potential gaps in local policy or strategy which may need to be filled through the BSIP or reviewed and amended to ensure the BSIP’s success.

2.17. The BSIP has been closely aligned with the joint Dorset and BCP Local Transport Plan (LTP). Section 3 provides a summary of the national and local policy reviews.

Area Covered by the BSIP

2.18. This BSIP covers the whole area within the Dorset Council Unitary Authority boundary (Figure 2.1.)

2.19. Whilst most local bus services outlined within this BSIP operate wholly within the Dorset Council area, a number operate into neighbouring LTA areas. As such we have consulted and worked with colleagues in neighbouring areas to ensure there is alignment and overlap with the BSIPs being developed by Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Wiltshire Council, Hampshire County Council, and Bournemouth Poole and Christchurch Unitary Authority.

2.20. The council has held discussions with all neighbouring LTAs concerning cross-boundary services to ensure each LTA (including Dorset Council) present consistent BSIPs. In addition, each neighbouring LTA has been invited to, and attended, the three rounds of Bus Back Better stakeholder consultation the council has conducted in developing its BSIP response to the DfT.

Figure 2.1 – The Dorset Council BSIP Area

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