Subsidised bus routes: new contracts to be awarded from April 2020 and bus fares pilot to start in May 2020
Some of the bus routes in Cornwall are what is known as commercial routes where the operator decides on the level of service, timetable etc. and runs the service independently of the local authority although subject to being registered with the traffic commissioner and accepting the use of concessionary fares passes. In the Probus, Tregony and Grampound area, the only commercial route is the First no. 27 service running between St Austell and Truro.
On other routes, no bus company is willing to run a completely unsubsidised service. In these cases, Cornwall Council puts out to tender the details of the type of service and timetable that it wishes to see on these routes and bus companies tender for providing the service at a level of subsidy from the Council. In this area, the routes to Tregony and the Roseland (50 and 51) and the route through the clay area to St Austall (22) are subsidised routes.
The current contracts will expire in April 2020 and the routes have been put out to tender again, this time for an 8-year period. Tenders have been received from a number of operators and a decision was made by Cabinet on 18 December to award new contracts. Bus companies were advised of the results of the tenders shortly before Christmas. There is a short period when the bus companies have an opportunity to challenge the tender awards if they are not happy with them. Confirmation of the new contracts will occur in January 2020.
Details of the new contracts have now been published. The successful company is Go Cornwall Bus, a subsidiary of national company Go-Ahead. This group includes Plymouth CityBus which operates in Plymouth and south east Cornwall. For further details see Cornwall Council website.
In addition, Cornwall Council has been awarded the sum of £23 million by the Department of Transport to carry out a bus fares pilot for 4 years from May 2020. One of the deterrents to people using bus services in Cornwall has been the relatively high fares for passengers who do not have the benefit of concessionary passes. The intention is that the Council will work with the bus operators to bring in lower fares, probably using a zonal system, that will enable workers and families to use the buses at lower cost. More details will follow in early 2020.