Bus lanes suspended in Liverpool? Merseytravel’s demise is clear to see

Like many people I have seen the TV/press stories about Liverpool City Council suspending bus lanes to see if it will help traffic flow better. However TV news in particular is so short (on most things) that you never get to hear the detail. So here is some detail that I picked up via Merseytravel. The notes in brackets are ones that I have added for clarity or comment purposes.

· We (Merseytravel) will work with the council and the bus operators to collect the data and information required to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the trial is robust and evidence-based.

· We (Merseytravel) continue to believe there is merit in bus lanes; they can help improve journey times and the reliability of buses, and can make the bus network more attractive.

· There may be some bus lanes that aren’t working as effectively as they could be. A trial may help pin point where the problems lay and where improvements can be made.

· We (Merseytravel) are pleased to see that Liverpool City Council has made it clear it will be encouraging public feedback on the initiative from both public transport and non-public transport users as part of the consultation.

Q&A:

1. What’s Merseytravel’s view on the bus lanes suspension?

It is a LCC (Liverpool City Council) initiative. Merseytravel will work with Liverpool and the bus operators to collect the data and information required to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the outcome of the trial is robust and evidence-based. We do believe there is merit in bus lanes- they can help improve journey times and the reliability of buses, and can make the bus network more attractive. We do fully appreciate that there may be those that aren’t working as effectively as they could, or where the lay out or signage could be improved to assist all road users. This trial may help pin point where the problems lay and where improvements can be made.

2. LCC says that data indicates that bus lanes not leading to increased usage (of buses), does Merseytravel agree?

Bus usage is a complex picture. Caution should be urged in linking any increases or decreases in bus usage directly with the provision, or not, of bus lanes. Bus lanes are just one of a range of measures that can help increase patronage. However, in most surveys bus punctuality and reliability is the top priority for passengers.

3. How has Merseytravel been working with LCC on this initiative? (Sounds to me that Merseytravel had this foisted on them!)

This is a LCC-led initiative. We will work with LCC and the bus operators during the trial period to collect the data and information required to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the outcome is robust and evidence-based.

4. What is the view of the bus operators?

This is a question you’ll need to ask them. We’ll be working with them and LCC during the trial.

5. So how will Merseytravel work to ensure that the data and information is robust and evidence-based?

The timescales are tight to get sufficient and informative baseline data before the trial commences and we have informed LCC of that (definitely had it foisted on them!). However, working with the bus operators and other key stakeholders we are working to ensure that there is information on traffic flow, journey times and the number and type of bus users before the trial starts with the mechanisms in place to collect information on the same measures during the trial period.

6. Shouldn’t bus lanes reviews be down to Merseytravel/PTEs (Passenger Transport Executives) to do?

Merseytravel’s role is generally to look at the big picture- getting people around the city region on public transport. Supporting bus usage is obviously one part of that, with bus lanes one of a number of considerations alongside wider issues such as fare structures and whether communities are being served appropriately. The local authorities have responsibility for the maintenance of highways in their area and they are therefore often best placed to identify if something is working or not locally or needs to be reviewed. We would expect to be consulted on any plans and offering advice from a strategic perspective covering considerations such as access to bus stops and their locations and bus priorities. We can assist them in making an informed decision by ensuring they have the right evidence and information.

What you can read into all this is that Merseytravel are no longer all powerful and that Liverpool City Council are now pulling its strings.

John Pugh MP on Sefton’s mad rush to join the Merseyside Joint Authority

pugh

“A cosy, closed club of Labour council leaders is no-one’s idea of a good formula for economic progress in the region but to leave out West Lancs just makes matter worse. Anyone who manages to drive from Southport to St Helens (both in the City Region) and avoids going through the heart of West Lancs is probably plain lost. If transport connections are supposed to be important for the City Region you can’t help thinking Labour city bosses have lost the plot too.”

Liverpool City Region Governance Review – Consultation Response from the Liberal Democrat Group on Sefton Council

I posted about this on 17th August under the heading of Merseyside Joint Authority and now Cllr. Nigel Ashton as Chair of the opposition Lib Dem Group of councillors on Sefton Council has made this excellent formal submission on our behalf:-

Cllr. Nigel Ashton

Cllr. Nigel Ashton

Introduction

1.1 A review of the governance of the Liverpool City Region (LCR) is overdue. The LCR as presently constituted is neither effective nor transparent. It is certainly not accountable, either to its constituent authorities or to the wider public whose interests it exists to serve.

1.2 We are severely disappointed that the opportunity for a more fundamental review has not been taken. The options outlined in the Governance Review merely formalise the existing arrangements, albeit with the inclusion of transport.

Geography

2.1 The biggest problem is the geographical area of the existing City Region. It is neither small enough to be local, nor large enough to be truly effective in the stated aim of creating jobs and driving economic growth at a sub-regional level. There is no recognition given to the strategic importance of co-operation with Lancashire County Council.

2.2 The current area of the LCR is dominated by Liverpool City itself, yet important parts of Liverpool’s economic hinterland and travel to work area are excluded from the LCR. The existing LCR does not even cover both banks of the river Mersey for its tidal stretch.

2.3 Important areas such as Ormskirk, Skelmersdale and Ellesmere Port are excluded. Edge Hill University in Ormskirk is a major contributor to the knowledge economy and a national resource for medical and teacher training. The petrochemical plants in Ellesmere Port are also of huge economic importance.

2.4 The opportunity must be taken to negotiate with West Lancashire District Council and Cheshire West & Chester Unitary Authority with a view to their participation in the proposed Combined Authority. This would add economic clout and go some way to mitigate the over-dominance of Liverpool City itself in the sub-region.

2.5 Most of the land boundary of Sefton is with Lancashire and people in the North of Sefton look as much to the east as to the south. It is important that the LCR establishes a formal partnership with Lancashire County Council.

Transport

3.1 We understand that the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority has already voted to wind itself up and place Merseytravel under the aegis of the proposed Combined Authority. The fact that Merseyrail reaches Chester and Ormskirk strengthens the case for extending the LCR to include these areas, given the strategic importance of transport to economic development and job creation.

3.2 A sizeable number of people commute eastwards from the Southport area, yet the Southport – Wigan – Manchester rail line has suffered from chronic under-investment for many years. No progress has been made towards the long awaited Ormskirk by-pass, despite improved transport links being a key requirement identified when hospital services were split between Southport and Ormskirk.

3.3 There is no direct rail link between Southport and either Preston or Ormskirk. The lack of a direct rail service from Preston and the north is a drag on the development of Southport’s visitor economy, which forms a key component of Sefton’s economic strategy.

3.4 Improving road and rail links east and north-east from Sefton should be a priority for the LCR’s transport strategy. This would be facilitated by extending the LCR to include West Lancashire and by the creation of a formal partnership with Lancashire County Council.

Governance and Scrutiny

4.1 We don’t feel that any of the options outlined in the Governance Review document will effectively meet the criteria of promoting economic regeneration, development and transport. It is not too late to persuade the Government that more time is needed to do the job properly.

4.2 We are particularly concerned about the inadequacy, and uncertainty, of the proposed scrutiny arrangements set out in paragraph 9 of Appendix One of the draft scheme.

4.3 There are no clear terms of reference or powers for the proposed Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Any establishment of sub-committees or co-options will be subject to the approval of the very body that the OSC is meant to scrutinise.

4.4 In the absence of any guarantee of proportionality on the OSC, it is entirely possible that all the members of the OSC will be members of the same political party as all the members of the LCR executive body. Not only would that be bad governance, it would lead to poor scrutiny and inflict reputational damage on the LCR.

Cllr Nigel Ashton, Chair, Liberal Democrat Group on Sefton Council
6 September 2013

Super Mayor Idea to be “Strangled at Birth” – Well said Dr John Pugh MP

Any effort to create a Merseyside super-mayor must be nipped in the bud according to Southport Lib Dem MP, John Pugh.

The government in their response today to the Heseltine review on rebalancing the economy is suggesting that areas like Merseyside should be allowed to form combined local authorities with possibly even a super executive mayor for all councils.

The choice will be left to local people but local MP John Pugh is keen “to strangle the idea at birth”.

“The naive assumption is that if we have our own Boris Johnson or Joe Anderson in the Boris role, we will be as prosperous as London. Frankly though there is no way Southport, Sefton, St Helens or Wirral will have any truck with this. It’s typical of Whitehall to think that what might be good for London works anywhere else. ”

“As it is going to be left to local people to decide I am determined to have their voice heard now, and will be writing to local council leaders to get their views and if possible their support in opposing super mayors.”

We believe in co-operation and have living proof that local councils can work very constructively together without being merged or bossed by a Mr Big.

A super mayor cannot effectively represent all the varied communities from Southport to St Helens and West Kirkby.

There is the serious danger that the focus of all effort will go into Liverpool and that is not the path to true economic regeneration.”