- Meeting of Policy and Performance - Regeneration and Environment Committee, Tuesday, 15th September 2015 6.00 p.m. (Item 12.)
- View the declarations of interest for item 12.
The Policy and Performance Regeneration and Environment Committee received an oral update from Mr John Fogarty, Merseytravel Director of Resources and Section 151 Officer. Mr Fogarty, accompanied by Ms Tracy Gibson, informed Members that Merseytravel is the executive body that provides professional, strategic and operational transport advice to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to enable it to make informed decisions, also providing for the delivery of public transport across the City Region.
Mr Fogarty set out information on the Transport Levy, in the context of new governance arrangements for the Combined Authority. In conjunction with the oral presentation, the Committee also considered a written report of the Strategic Director Regeneration and Environment that provided background information in relation to the Transport Levy, Minute No. 7 14 July 2015 refers.
Mr Fogarty explained that in terms of the Transport Levy, Merseytravel does not receive all the funds collected. A portion of the levy collected by the Combined Authority is retained to fund infrastructure projects, invest in public transport network assets, and manage debt. In terms of public transport delivery, Mr Fogarty informed that Merseytravel supported and administered the following from the levy:
- Concessionary Travel Scheme - £50m
- Support to Bus Services / Mersey Link – supplementary services £25m (to provide public transport service in areas not covered by private providers)
- Information and advertising promotion of services
- Ferries – service provision, maintenance (ferries and landing stages)
- Administration and support costs
Members were informed that the Mersey Tunnel assets belonged to the Combined Authority, and were purely administered by Merseytravel.
Members noted that in addition to the levy, a Department of Transport Grant was also paid to Merseytravel for the provision / support of Merseyrail (a portion of which is re-directed to Northern Rail service). Mr Fogarty informed that administration arrangements for this direct grant may be considered a form of public transportation ‘devolution’, which at present exists only in London and Merseyside.
Further information was provided to the committee on how the levy and grant funding had been reducing over the past 3 years, and that financial strategies had been amended accordingly. Linked to the reduced levy, utilising a combination of efficiency savings, value for money, procurement, management and back office savings Members were told that Merseytravel had continued to maintain service levels and meet performance targets. Mr Fogarty indicated that the challenges ahead would require new options to extend partnership working arrangements and reap economic benefits that would arise from increased patronage of bus services, i.e. reducing subsidies, which could in turn be used re-investing in public transport services. Members were told of the success of the ‘my ticket’ scheme and the financial modelling strategy supporting it – capped underwriting in the early stages, with service providers benefitting from increased income as a result of increased patronage in the future - Merseytravel would in turn benefit from the ability to improve services through the reallocation of subsidies.
Members questioned Mr Fogarty on a number of matters namely (summary response in brackets):
- The expected lifetime for the ‘my ticket’ scheme. (It is difficult to predict how long the ‘my ticket’ scheme will continue, however operators are quite pleased with the take of the service to date. The scheme is being extended, and there is a financial commitment from Merseytravel to continue the scheme over the next few years).
- The reason for the cancellation of the night bus service to the Wirral, and whether other Merseyside areas still benefitted from a night bus service. (Discussions on night bus services continue to take place with bus operators. Operators are encouraged where possible to provide this service, but services must be commercially viable, any subsidies provided must compete with other daytime route demands and patronage. An offer was extended for a meeting between Merseytravel officers and Councillors to discuss night bus services).
- The reason concessionary bus pass entitlement commences at age 60. (Historically a decision had been taken to ensure equality between the sexes, resulting in the provision of bus passes at the then retirement age for Women i.e. aged 60. This matter could be reviewed in the future – Councillors views would be welcomed).
- Limited and/or reduced number of ‘Fast Tag’ lanes accessible at the Mersey Tunnels, in contradiction to the various advertising to promote the ‘Fast Tags’. An additional question was raised regarding the minimum tag ‘top-up’ set at £20. (These comments would be relayed back to Merseytravel / Tunnel operators. Councillors noted that the initial top-up charge was £20, but subsequent direct debit transfer payments could be set at a level and timing to suit individual tunnel users).
The Chair thanked Mr Fogarty for his informative report.
Resolved: That the report be noted.
Note: During the course of debate, a number of Councillors questioned the Council solicitor regarding the declaration of interest, they being in possession of a concessionary bus pass. It was noted that holding of such a pass was a personal interest, and would not debar Members from taking part in the discussion because the Committee were not being invited to express an opinion on whether concessionary bus passes should be continued, only to receive information on Merseytravel’s operations and plans.