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Bus Back Better – Building Successful Enhanced Partnerships

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently issued the Bus Back Better National Bus Strategy, setting out the approach and expectations on authorities and operators to use £3Billion in new funding, but leaves many questions open on how to achieve it. Clearer bus service information and green vehicles are readily understood, while fare simplification and multi-modal ticketing are going to be harder to understand and achieve. A cornerstone of the vision is the use of an Enhanced Partnership (a statutory arrangement under the 2017 Bus Services Act). DfT suggest that operators in an Enhanced Partnership have a much greater role, working with LTAs to both develop and deliver improvements for passengers and having a real say on how bus services should be improved.


A fairly tight deadline requires all LTAs in England to:


1. by the end of June 2021 - decide which statutory path to follow - commit to establishing an Enhanced Partnership (EP) Scheme across their entire areas under the Bus Services Act with all operators co-operating with the LTA throughout the process or develop bus franchising.


2. by the end of October 2021 - publish a local Bus Service Improvement Plan


3. by the end of March 2022 - deliver an Enhanced Partnership. Have either an EP Scheme in place or be following the statutory processes to develop a bus franchising assessment.



Building Successful Enhanced Partnerships


The key to building and establishing successful enhanced partnerships is Stakeholder Trust: to identify, engage and build trust with key stakeholders by engaging with them early in the process to find solutions that meets the passengers', LTAs’ and operators’ needs. It is important to recognise operators’ business models and their desire to retain control of their passenger relationships.


Stakeholder Value With the Bus Back Better policy requiring fare simplification and multi-operator, multi-modal ticketing to include fare capping it is important to focus on a flexible ticketing solution that maximises value by integrating and working alongside existing operators’ ticketing systems.


Collaboration adopt a more integrated or collaborative approach to find a new strategic direction and one that will win support from stakeholders and funding from DfT.


Customer Centric Focus – focusing on what passengers require and need to include simpler fares and cheaper pricing, widening the range of multi-operator tickets, offering seamless integrated multi-modal journeys, as well as improving facilities and information for passengers.


Climate Change initiatives – building back better from the Covid pandemic, by focusing on giving buses higher priority on roads to beat congestion, and working with other modes to include rail, community transport schemes and newer micro-mobility offerings.


Building successful partnerships are complex and it takes time to build strong relationships and trust. Local authorities may lack the time and resources required to investigate and exploit the powers provided by the Bus Services Act 2017 and as a consequence very few AQPS or Enhanced Partnership Schemes have been developed. We believe that our objective and independent consultancy support can offer a way forward and help LTA’s develop and implement their approach.


How we can help


Smartran is a leading provider of innovative independent consultancy services and practical solutions to government organisations, Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) and transport service providers. We are currently assisting clients in the areas of transport ticketing, Local Authority smart cards, higher education, incentive schemes, contactless payment applications and improved delivery of existing services.


Smartran have deep sector experience in the development of stakeholder management and partnership schemes, as well as bus franchising options and UK Rail. We have extensive knowledge of the DfT’s guidance for each as well as the processes and procedures that need to be followed.


Smartran brings together a wealth of experience from working with local authorities and bus and transport operators across the UK and Europe, including the establishment and development of partnerships, together with stakeholder management, smart card technology, contactless EMV, NFC mobile applications and transport ticketing methods. We have led projects to deliver customer friendly ticketing propositions and improved user experience including vending machines, validators and mobile apps.


Our previous clients include DfT, First Group, Rail Delivery Group (formerly ATOC and RSP), Bracknell Forest Council, Strathclyde Passenger Transport, Merseyrail, Norfolk County Council, Community Transport in Dartford, Multiple Bids for TfN IST Programme, Eco Rewards for Green and Active Travel, MaaStran multi-modal integrated transport proposition including micro-mobility and Plus Rail proposition, Transport for WM, London Councils, London Mayor’s office, Nottingham Trams, Multipass and Chester City Council.

Experience, Expertise and Innovation


Smartran has the experience, expertise and technical understanding to support the development of strong partnerships between local authorities, bus operators and other stakeholders. We offer:


Experience – Our broad systems, government and commercial experience enables us to undertake rapid short focused studies, reports, major projects and contract management assignments and includes:


DfT and Norfolk County Council. This was a multi-operator scheme for mixed urban and rural bus services. Smartran provided consultancy support and was a member of the Program Board, prepared board reports, engaged with the bus operators and reviewed their network, services and systems. This resulted in the launch of the Norfolk Holdall card alongside concessionary passes and subsequently Transit EMV on bus.


Nottingham Trams Ltd (NTL). Smartran provided consultancy support and project management. Customer proposition improvements including consultancy advice and support on multi-operator and multi-modal ticketing to NTL Board and Senior management; The scope of work included Ticket Machines, integrated smart cards and Transit EMV implementation working with Public Transport Executives.


Multipass. Smartran provided consultancy support including programme management and service delivery for Multipass to the bus operators as scheme partnership. Multipass was the first Transit EMV Model 2 touch on-off ABT solution outside London. Our work included review of bus fares, routes and ticketing; program management; branding; negotiating with bus operators; preparing bus operator contract arrangements; scheme operating framework; ticket pricing and capping propositions; revenue apportionment and settlement; and planned bus equipment maintenance.


Expertise – Our core team and consultants bring a wealth of expertise including: Business Case verification and clarification, technical solution design, system requirements definition, ITT preparation, supplier selection process, service definition, organisation planning, sustainable service improvement at reduced cost, project, programme and contract management, delivery approach, implementation management, operation frameworks and ongoing service delivery. Smartran has the technical expertise to guide clients through the complexities of multi operator multimodal ticketing, smart ticketing pay-as-you-go and capped fares.