Winning back your trust in public transport
Although traffic returned to pre-pandemic levels by February 2021, public transport use has only partly recovered since the first lockdown. Google mobility data suggests that activity in and around bus and rail stations was still around 45% less than pre COVID-19 levels in April 2021. This is due to social distancing requirements and health concerns.
The government's National Bus Strategy for England sets out ambitious plans to rapidly increase bus use and recover from the losses caused by the pandemic. In response to the national strategy, we are currently working with bus operators and other partners to produce a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). This sets out our high-level vision for Surrey's bus network, including targets to improve journey times and reliability, and our plans to deliver them. Delivery will rely on extending and formalising our strong existing partnerships with bus operators.
What we aim to do and when
- Our short-term aim, by 2025, is to rebuild trust in public transport through safety, reliability and affordability.
- Our medium-term aim, by 2030, is to shift behaviour away from car use to public transport and active travel choices.
- Our longer-term aim, post 2030, is to strengthen travel behaviours to achieve net-zero emissions in Surrey.
How we will achieve these targets is set out in the next section, What is changing.
What is changing?
Our plans for the bus network are closely aligned with the government's goals for the National Bus Strategy (NBS), therefore our BSIP will provide the bus element of our Public and shared transport policy area in the finalised version of our Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4).
The rail component of this Policy Area already reflects our new Rail Strategy for Surrey, published in March 2021, which has similar objectives to the LTP4 and outlines our role in promoting changes in rail provision, setting out how rail can contribute to a greener future, growing a sustainable economy, empowering communities, and tackling health inequality in Surrey.
Once the post pandemic position becomes clear, we will continue to work with our partners to re-establish demand and deliver high quality public and shared transport provision in Surrey.
We will do this by exploring and developing the most appropriate options in relation to:
- Improving, connecting and simplifying services
- Improving journey time reliability
- Simplifying ticketing and fares
- Improving affordability
- Improving accessibility and safety
- Expanding shared transport provision
- Developing Mobility Hubs (connecting your transport options)
- Developing a Mobility as a Service framework (bringing all public transport information together for better journey planning)
- Road improvements for public transport
Improving, connecting and simplifying services
A simple and integrated public transport network
We want our public transport network to be easy to understand and to directly and efficiently serve journeys that people want to make.
The NBS highlights the importance to passengers of a simple and integrated public transport network. As we work with our partners to develop the BSIP, we will review the options available to improve and simplify our bus services. We anticipate that our focus for improving service frequency will be on high demand routes. This will include routes serving town centres, where increased passenger numbers bring a range of benefits, including supporting sustainable growth, social inclusion and improved local environment and air quality.
We will also identify practical opportunities to improve connections between services, through better timetable alignment for both bus and rail services, as well as improved physical connections which is discussed further under Mobility Hubs below. When considering opportunities for new services, we will review the options to expand park and ride, building on the success of our Guildford services. This would work in conjunction with a decrease in parking spaces, particularly in town centres, (this is discussed under Demand Management for Cars) but will need to be carefully planned to avoid the risk of increasing traffic.
We will pursue available sources of funding to improve the services on the bus network, including the funding associated with the NBS, the Levelling Up Fund, funding from Local Enterprise Partnerships and from developers. Funding from developers will be obtained by introducing requirements for new developments to be served by good quality bus services that integrate with the existing public transport network. This will require co-ordination with district and borough councils, as planning authorities, and developers.
As outlined in our Rail Strategy, we will also continue to work with partners to make the case for rail improvements such as additional services on the North Downs and Tonbridge lines. We will also support improvements to rail capacity and frequency, particularly where it can support sustainable housing and employment growth cost effectively.
To ensure our network provides comprehensive coverage, we will continue to provide bus services that are essential for social or economic reasons but not commercially profitable. We may decide to use on-demand transport options on lower demand routes, possibly as 'spokes' linking into the main bus and rail services. In this context, we will also consider the opportunities for a 'Total Transport' approach, coordinating bus services with other public sector transport provision (including hospital transport and school transport), with the aim of minimising any duplication between services and maximising journey opportunities.
Improving journey time reliability
Reliable journey times are the key to attracting potential passengers to public transport. We can improve the reliability of buses by giving them greater priority on roads through measures such as bus lanes, traffic signal prioritisation and bus gates (a gate that only buses can pass through).
We have already implemented many measures to prioritise buses across the county and have recently agreed £9 million funding for further priority schemes. We will review additional options as we develop our BSIP and they will be carefully aligned with our plans to also prioritise walking and cycling.
The NBS puts a strong emphasis on the importance of priority and reliability and highlights the need to keep routes clear of parking and loading activities and to enforce bus lane rules. This enforcement is currently challenging as it relies on limited police resources. We welcome the opportunity to consider how to enforce these issues ourselves, as the government moves to make more enforcement powers available to us (discussed further under enforcement below and in the Efficient Network Management Policy Area).
Our Rail Strategy identifies a number of ways in which we will work with partners to support improved rail journey times and reliability, including support for schemes and proposals to increase capacity and services, such as Thameslink and the South West Mainline improvement.
Simplifying ticketing and fares
Ticketing and fares play a key role in making public transport more attractive to potential passengers. The NBS emphasises that the fares policy needs to play an integral part of each BSIP, highlighting that lower and simpler fares attract passengers and bring wider social and economic benefits. More widely, the NBS sets out the ambition for seamless, integrated ticketing between different modes of transport and their operators, and for fares initiatives, for instance to support jobseekers and those on a low income.
We welcome the ambition to improve and integrate ticketing nationally. As we develop our BSIP, we will review the options to develop our fares structures and multiple transport option ticketing. This would build on our existing successful delivery of ACORN tickets used for different services in North Surrey, and integrated ticketing in Woking and Guildford.
Our Rail Strategy also highlights the need to promote a fairer rail fares structure that will support changing commuter patterns and a potential increase in more local rail trips.
Additionally, we will explore the development of a Mobility as a Service framework (MaaS). This would provide a way of simplifying and integrating fares across networks and transport types and applying measures such as daily fares caps.
A Mobility Credits system linked to the Mobility as a Service framework (MaaS) application will also be explored to help encourage jobseekers and those on a low income to choose the more sustainable travel option. Further details on Mobility Credits is provided in the Behaviour Change policy area.
Improving safety and accessibility
One of our main targets is to ensure that public and shared transport services are accessible to all and provide a safe environment for passengers. One way to support vulnerable and lone travellers is by better design that puts security first.
Our Rail Strategy highlights our role in supporting the improvement of rail stations to ensure they are safe and accessible to all. This includes working to deliver station upgrades and design standards, supporting the continued programme of providing stair and step free access at stations and providing good connections to other modes of transport, including taxis and on-demand transport.
As we develop our BSIP, we will work with partners, including the districts and borough councils, to identify how we can extend our previous work to improve bus accessibility and safety. Our developments to date include providing good quality bus shelters, readily available real time information on bus arrival and design changes including raised kerbs and improved lighting levels. Consideration of sight lines and the provision of CCTV on buses and at some stops also play a key role in designing for safety.
We will also review the opportunities to improve the walking and cycling networks that provide access to bus stops, with the aim of making them more direct, safer, easier to negotiate and more attractive for everyone.
Expanding shared transport provision
Shared transport is any mode of transport that carries multiple travellers who have multiple destinations. This includes on-demand transport.
On demand transport (Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services)
These typically serve an identified route and timetable but only run if passengers pre-book and only serve those parts of the routes required by bookings. If these are well designed and well known, they can provide an efficient and flexible service. Surrey recently received £600,000 from the government's Rural Mobility fund to introduce and trial on-demand transport services in rural areas of Mole Valley using electric minibuses. The aim is to work to complement or replace infrequent services, such as those connecting hamlets and villages to nearest towns. The minibuses are fully accessible and will be available on demand by booking through an app, by phone or online. Residents will also be able to access real time information about availability and the locations of the minibuses.
We will support the expansion of shared mobility to complement and expand the reach of our public transport system. This is likely to include introducing on demand transport services (as described above) and working with districts and borough councils to provide appropriate licensing support for ride hailing schemes and conventional taxis. Full details can be found in the Policy Area: Expanding shared transport provision.
Developing Mobility Hubs
Our Rail Strategy identifies the potential for rail stations to provide:
- better integration with other types of transport through improved links with walking and cycle networks, bus and on-demand services, taxi access and provision of facilities such as charging points for e-bikes and other electric vehicles.
- a wider range of services for the local community, including space for local businesses and delivery and collection points.
We will explore the options to build on these principles to develop Mobility Hubs. These are clearly distinguished, attractive central points for public and shared transport provision and connections, focussed around rail stations or bus stations or stops where possible. They provide access to a range of types of transport (for instance, this could include bike hire and car clubs in larger hubs), easily accessible information on travel options and other services such as retail and digital hubs, that provide the facilities required for remote working, or access to online appointments, or other opportunities.
Mobility Hubs would make sustainable alternatives to car more attractive and would help to reduce the number and length of car trips by providing more opportunities locally, in line with our Planning for Place policy area.
Developing a Mobility as a Service framework
We will explore the potential for developing a transport information and booking system for Surrey, known as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) framework, as it has the potential to bring significant benefits in terms of integrating public and shared transport and encouraging the shift away from car use.
A MaaS framework brings together information on transport types and services, plus a booking facility. This would typically be available through a smartphone application but there would also be an option to access the same MaaS services using a standard phone or a computer.
Benefits include features such as end-to-end journey planning, ticket purchasing for multiple types of transport and the ability to earn and spend rewards. It provides a single point of access for shared mobility options (such as on-demand transport) alongside timetabled public transport, reducing complexity and cost and making the options more attractive to users (see our Policies to reduce carbon).
MaaS frameworks improve and simplify the travel experience for passengers, providing reliable real time information, journey planning and payment for the full journey, regardless of the number and range of transport types used. They also support accessible travel (by providing information about facilities such as accessibility ramps and travel assistance).
Improvements made to digital connectivity will be key to taking full advantage of the potential of MaaS solutions across Surrey.
A Mobility Credits system linked to the MaaS application will also be explored.
Road improvements for public transport
Enforcement of rules such as bus lanes and cycle lanes, and yellow box junctions, is important to ensure the efficient operation of the road network. The police currently hold most of the powers for enforcement but we are awaiting an update from Government (on the Traffic Management Act 2004, Part 6), under which we will be able to apply for powers to take on some enforcement roles, rather than relying on the police.
These powers will cover parking, red routes, bus lanes, and 'moving traffic' offences (motorists entering box junctions without a clear exit or entering a road with 'no entry' or 'no left turn' or 'no right turn' signs). We will investigate the opportunities provided by these powers in relation to enforcing measures such as yellow box junctions and camera-based enforcement to limit vehicle access in school streets and 'Liveable Streets'. Through these measures we will be able to reduce congestion and to improve conditions for travel by public transport, walking and cycling.
Targeted capacity improvements
Efficient network management may require minor road capacity increases in some locations to alleviate congestion hotspots (such as the level crossing at Ash). Other increases may be needed to remove traffic from some areas, bringing significant improvements to residential or urban centre locations. In these limited cases, we will design schemes to bring significant reallocation of road space away from car and goods vehicle use. In this way, communities will benefit from safer, more accessible and Healthy Streets to support public transport as well as active and other personal transport options, without a significant increase in capacity for cars and goods vehicles.
The aim will be to shift car users to active travel choices, such as walking or cycling, or to higher occupancy vehicles such as buses, trains and other shared transport options, including on-demand services.
The impact will be greatest when supporting change of larger vehicles that travel long distances such as buses, taxis, delivery vans or company fleets.
Timetable for change
We will add schemes to our timetable below as they are agreed and implemented.
What we are doing now
2022 to 2050
We will keep you informed about our future plans and provide consultations for you to comment and help shape public transport in Surrey in the future.
Why public and shared transport is the better travel option
More passengers travelling together, means less vehicles
For many longer journeys, travel by bus or rail is the most attractive option. Working with operators, opportunities exist to improve end-to-end journeys by public transport, including environments at stations and access to them. The network of bus services will be reviewed to identify ways to improve the coverage of the network, service frequencies, reliability, fares and customer experience. Where demand is lower, shared transport and on-demand transport will play an important role, as will park and ride and car clubs. Making it easy to plan, book and pay for journeys is an important aspect. The development of high-quality 'Mobility as a Service (MaaS)' technology (such as a travel app for smartphones), which simplifies this process, will be critical to making this happen.
Public transport services provide a more sustainable alternative to car travel, reducing traffic and carbon emissions and improving air quality and the road space available for other type of transport. They also provide a safe, accessible and efficient means of transport to town centres, jobs, education, healthcare, leisure facilities and other key destinations. The transport opportunities provided promote social inclusion and improve quality of life. There is also increasing evidence of the importance of public transport access in supporting sustainable economic growth. See Carbon emissions per passenger kilometre for the data comparing car travel to public transport.
Other shared transport options
Shared transport options are expanding and include lift share schemes, ride hailing such as Uber, taxis, on-demand transport and car clubs as well as hire of personal transport, such as bikes, e-bikes and potentially e-scooters (if they are made legal following ongoing trials). The options are increasing and improving as a result of growing availability of data on travel patterns for operators and flexibility of booking apps for users. These shared options provide valuable opportunities to complement the public transport network and combine to provide a more comprehensive alternative to the car, reducing the need to own a car. For instance, shared transport can provide options for the first or last leg of a public transport journey, or cover journeys for which there is not sufficient demand to support public transport provision.
Supporting the further development of our public and shared transport provision will be a key element of LTP4. However, there is some uncertainty around the measures to be taken as the public transport sector is currently experiencing major change.
Nine fully electric buses have operated on the Guildford Park and Ride service since 2019, they were introduced in partnership by ourselves and Stagecoach and built by Guildford based manufacturer Alexander Dennis.
We will continue to support the conversion of the bus and community transport fleet through bidding for available funds such as the DfT Electric Bus Towns Fund. This will build on our existing electric bus fleet in Guildford and the recent decision to invest £32.5 million in electric and hydrogen buses and £6.5m for community transport electric minibuses.
Rail carbon emissions
Key results for rail emissions can be found on the Office of Rail and Road website Rail emissions (ORR Data Portal). The data shows that both diesel and electricity consumption for passenger and freight trains reduced in 2020-2021 by 21% of the total in 2019-2020. Rail emissions are inline with electric bus emissions and when the number of passengers is also taken into consideration, the emissions per person travelling on a train are a fraction of those of a person travelling in a car.
The National Bus Strategy and Our Public and Shared Transport policies
Our Public and Shared Transport policies
We will work with our partners, including bus and rail operators, to improve and develop our public and shared transport provision.
Our bus measures come from our Bus Service Improvement Plan and rail measures are drawn from our New Rail Strategy for Surrey. They include developments to provide simpler, improved and more integrated services and more reliable journey times. We will continue to build upon our work to improve the safety and accessibility of the network and opportunities to simplify and reduce fares will be explored.
National bus strategy
The government's National Bus Strategy for England sets out ambitious plans for a significant change in the bus sector to rapidly increase bus use and recover from the losses caused by the pandemic.
The strategy identifies the key goals that bus services should be:
- more frequent;
- faster and more reliable;
- more comprehensive coverage;
- easier to understand information;
- easier to use;
- better integrated with other modes of transport and each other.
How we will measure success
Indicators for measuring success for public transport are as follows:
- Measure: Good quality accessibility between economic centres and employees, suppliers, similar businesses and customers.
Indicator: NHT public satisfaction survey Results 2020 (NHT Networks)
- Measure: Ease of access, including journeys to work
Indicator: number of bus stops
- Measure: Reliable end to end journey times,
Indicator: bus reliability and punctuality
- Measure: Shorter, more reliable, convenient, safer and lower-cost alternatives to private car journeys for access to opportunities and services
Indicator: local bus passenger journeys
- Measure: Equity of access (compliance with Equality Act)
- Percentage of bus stops with RTPI, full physical accessibility
- Percentage of accessible/low level buses
- Percentage of accessible rail stations
- Measure: Safe, accessible and affordable alternatives to private car travel for all, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups
- safety – personal security / crimes on public transport
- accidents and crime incidents associated with transport network.