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Public Transport Strategy

West Lothian Public Transport Strategy

West Lothian Council is committed to maintaining a public transport network that meets the majority of transport needs within its geographic boundary and provides connections to neighbouring areas.  A key council activity is the augmentation of passenger transport services provided by commercial and voluntary sector operators to provide a comprehensive network.

The principal powers for the council to do this derive from the 1985 Transport Act, which states that local authorities in Scotland have duties (under section 63) "to secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as the council consider it appropriate to secure to meet any public transport requirements within their area which would not in their view be met apart from any action taken by them for that purpose"; and "to formulate from time to time general policies as to the descriptions of services they propose to secure".  In so doing, the Act states, local authorities shall "have regard to the transport needs of members of the public who are elderly or disabled".

Furthermore, Section 51 of the Transport Act (Scotland) 1980 requires that councils provide free home to catchment school transport for children aged eight years or less living at least two miles from school and children over eight living at least three miles from school. This statutory minimum distance entitlement was amended in 1996 to the effect that, in transporting pupils, councils must have regard to the safety of pupils that are not provided with transport on the grounds of distance.

The council has powers to provide direct financial support to transport operators in particular circumstances through:

  • Revenue payments to support non-commercial services; and
  • Capital grants to improve facilities or rolling stock.

This document sets out how West Lothian Council will meet these duties, and how it will prioritise resources towards competing demands for investment in public transport services.

Policy PTS1: General Basis of Support

The council will, within legislative constraints, actively seek to deploy revenue and capital resources to provide direct financial support for public transport operations in West Lothian which cater for social needs that would otherwise be unmet, and which represent good value for the community.

The council does not necessarily seek to use its financial support to provide service users with a choice of travel destinations or service type; preferring instead to seek to provide accessibility for as many people as possible to locations at which social needs can reasonably be met.

Policy PTS2: Prioritisation of funding

The council will provide funding, within available resources, to support passenger transport services that meet the requirements of policy PTS1.   

In the event of available funding being unable to meet all potential needs, the council will prioritise funding towards those services that provide a transport option for people that would otherwise have no travel choices and to those which deliver larger numbers of journeys per unit of subsidy provided.

When making choices between investment options, the council will be also be guided by the following order of priorities:

1.           Meeting the statutory minimum requirements for home to catchment school transport (of providing free provision for children aged eight years or less living at least two miles from that school and children over eight living at least three miles from that school, and for children for whom there is a specific road safety concern on their journey to that school ), subject the principles set out in the policy for school transport (see policy PTS4 below);

2.           Providing free transport from home to catchment school transport for primary children aged nine and over living at least two miles from school, subject to the principles set out in policy PTS4;

3.           Providing free home to catchment school transport for primary children living within two miles of school and secondary school children living within three miles from school for pupils that are defined within the principles set out in policy PTS4 as having additional transport needs;

4.           Working with operators to ensure a viable primary network of scheduled bus services is available, providing direct, inter urban services on the main transport corridors in West Lothian, using wheelchair accessible vehicles to operate minimum half hourly Monday to Saturday daytime and hourly evening and Sunday frequency on these routes:

  • Falkirk-Linlithgow-Edinburgh
  • Bathgate-Livingston
  • Whitburn-Livingston
  • Livingston-Edinburgh via A89
  • Livingston-Edinburgh via A71.

These routes will guarantee a regular service to the intermediate settlements of Blackburn, Bridgend, Broxburn, East Calder, East Whitburn, Mid Calder, Kirknewton, Seafield, Threemiletown, Uphall, Wilkieston and Winchburgh.

5.           Working with operators to ensure a viable secondary network of scheduled bus services is available, on the secondary transport corridors in West Lothian, using wheelchair accessible vehicles on minimum hourly daytime frequency Monday to Saturday on these routes:

  • Falkirk-Bathgate-Livingston
  • Blackridge-Bathgate
  • Fauldhouse-Whitburn-Armadale-Bathgate
  • Bathgate-Linlithgow
  • Linlithgow-Livingston
  • Fauldhouse-Livingston
  • Winchburgh-Broxburn-Uphall Station-Livingston
  • Linlithgow-Bo'ness.

These routes will guarantee a regular service to the intermediate settlements of Addiewell, Bathville, Bents, Berniehill, Burngrange, Ecclesmachan, Loganlea, Polbeth, Pumpherston, Stoneyburn, Torphichen, Uphall Station, West Calder, Westfield and Whiteside.

6.           Supporting demand responsive or scheduled transport services to operate in locations and at times to provide access to key social needs that would otherwise be unmet, which are appropriate to the needs of target communities and individuals, when there is at least a reasonable level of demand and when they can be provided for reasonable levels of subsidy per passenger journey;

7.           Providing free transport to catchment school for primary children living between one and a half and two miles of school and secondary school children living between two and three miles from school, where such transport can be provided on a good value basis by the council.

Policy PTS3: User charges

In accordance with its 2013 Review of Income and Concessions, the council will usually seek to recover some of the costs of transport it supports from users, subject to any agreed national or regional concessionary travel scheme or where free transport to school is provided by statute or council policy.  These could be in the form either of direct payments to the council or to service providers (which, in the latter case, will be considered as part of contractual agreements).  Any such payments will be used in order that available council finances are able to provide transport support to a larger number of people. 

In setting user charges, the council will, unless specific different circumstances apply, usually seek to set these charges at about the levels that would be incurred were the journey to be made by the user on a commercially operated scheduled bus.

Policy PTS4: School transport

Efficient and sustainable school transport services will be provided to ensure that the council meets the statutory minimum requirements for home to catchment school transport.

The council will maintain guidelines as to in which circumstances pupils will be eligible for additional support transport needs, assess all new requests for such transport and review each pupil's continued eligibility for transport on a regular basis.

Policy PTS5: Pump-prime funding

The council will, where there is a robust case and when funding is available, provide short-term investment (including indirectly through marketing) to commercial or voluntary sector transport operators, where this would create new or support existing or other transport services (be they scheduled or demand responsive bus services or other publicly-available transport options such as social car schemes or car clubs) that are expected to become financially sustainable (i.e. operate without on-going council support).  Funding will only be considered for services that would meet unmet social needs, would otherwise not be available and would not detract from the viability of commercial or other existing services;

Policy PTS6: Service quality

Contracts between the council and transport operators will mandate that service provision at least meets minimum statutory requirements for vehicle and service quality.  The council may specify contracts beyond statutory minimum requirements (including for vehicle specification) where these are felt to be necessary to provide a reasonable service to the target users or otherwise offer best value.

Policy PTS7: Service co-ordination

Within the bounds of statute and in partnership with operators, the council's Public Transport Unit will co-ordinate transport provision in West Lothian such that different services complement each other effectively in order to achieve best value for the council's investment in public transport and aid efficient operation for service providers.

Policy PTS8: Infrastructure and information

The council will provide and maintain, in all locations subject to its control, appropriate infrastructure (including roads, bus stops, shelters, information displays) as are necessary for the provision of the key and secondary networks of scheduled bus services and other passenger transport services that it supports.

The council, in general, expects service operators to inform potential users of relevant services and encourage their use.  It will, however, provide support to relevant regional or national transport information dissemination systems and may provide financial or other assistance to help potential users get better information on services where there is a clear benefit in doing so.

Policy PTS9: Procurement

The council will determine the procurement model and contract periods for each service to be supported, in every case to deliver best value outcomes for the council and service users. 

Policy PTS10: Contract compliance

The council will monitor the compliance with contract of the services provided by any organisation it enters into agreement with to provide public transport or related services.  Non-compliance with contract conditions may lead to reductions in support payments or to premature termination of the contract.  In the latter circumstance, the council may exclude the supplier from tendering for further contracts for a set period.