Challenges facing bus services in Swindon were discussed at the Swindon Bus Summit on 13 January. It was organised by Stagecoach West and saw the involvement of other operators and public sector representatives.
Patronage on the town’s network remains “depressed,” at 70% of pre-pandemic levels. Summit attendees explored how best to move forward from that, including the deployment of innovative solutions to address current challenges and the identification of opportunities “to position buses at the heart of the future of Swindon,” Stagecoach West says.
However, the next step is to establish a formal Enhanced Partnership (EP), as per the National Bus Strategy for England. The EP will aim to address items raised at the Summit to improve the bus network in Swindon. Among those are better passenger information, stronger engagement with user groups, and growing customer confidence and safety perceptions.
While the rate of patronage return has varied in different parts of the country, the 70% quoted for Swindon is lower than figures cited in many other areas. Among attendees of the Bus Summit were Sir Robert Buckland MP, Swindon Borough Council Leader Cllr David Renard, and Head of Strategic Transport Jon Harris.
Stagecoach West Managing Director Rachel Geliamassi says that the discussions at the Summit were positive. On protecting the town’s bus network, she adds: “I was encouraged by the acknowledgement that it is a shared task and that we need to demonstrate to our communities that we are taking positive steps in an aligned way; the Summit being an example of that.
“A key takeaway from the Summit is the need to continue an open dialogue with key stakeholders, as well as listening to our customers to ensure that buses meet the evolving needs of local residents.”
Swindon’s Bus Company, formerly the municipal Thamesdown business and now owned by Go-Ahead Group, was represented by MD Andrew Wickham. Echoing Ms Geliamassi’s comments, he describes discussions at the Summit as “constructive.”
Adds Mr Wickham: “It is imperative that we continue to work together to ensure that the town has a comprehensive bus network – not only to help bring communities together and drive economic prosperity, but also to lower congestion and improve air quality. We can do this by making sustainable transport the most attractive option for those living and working in Swindon.”