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NORWICH AREA COMMITTEE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 4TH OCTOBER 2004 Present: Members Celia Cameron (Chairman) Cym Cant Joan Fowler Barbara Hacker Philip Jimenez Maran McKay Brian Morrey Harriett Panting Andy Panes Jane Rooza Mervyn Scutter Cath Ward Sue Whitaker Also Present: Eve Collishaw Dal Dewgarde Jeannie Dorrington John Elbro Graham Fletcher David Fullman Bob Gledhill Ian Hydes Neil Hacker Mick Hardy Gordon Hanning Judith Lubbock Steve Morphew Sarah Nunn John Pope Sam Ralph Helen Smith Andrew St Ledger Bill Utting Jeremy Wiggin Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Support Worker, Meridian East Eaton & University Community Power Forum Churches Together in Greater Norwich Age Concern Norwich City Council Norfolk County Council Member of the Public Norfolk County Council Head of Passenger Transport Unit Norwich City Council Norwich City Council Norwich Voluntary Services Managing Director, First Bus NCC, Director of Planning and Transportation Anglia TV Norfolk County Council Member of the Public Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council Norfolk County Council

Apologies: Stephen Dorrington, Gail Loveday, David and Connie Roberts, and John Sheppard

1.

MINUTES The minutes of the meeting held on 27th May 2004 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Vice-Chairman.

2.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST Mrs Panting declared a prejudicial interest in item 6, the Norwich Orbital Route as Chair of the West Norwich Community Transport and left the room during discussion thereof.

3.

ISSUES FACING DISABLED PASSENGERS ON FIRST BUS The Chairman welcomed those present to the meeting, in particular Mr John Pope, the Managing Director of First Bus and Anglia TV who would be filming. The Chairman informed the Committee that before discussing the first item on the agenda a short video of an Anglia TV News Report highlighting the problems faced by disabled passengers on our buses, would be shown. The Committee were shown the video mentioned above which demonstrated the difficulties faced by wheelchair bound passengers in boarding a First Bus in Norwich. Although the majority of buses were equipped with boarding ramps it was up to the discretion of the bus drivers whether to leave their cabs, operate the boarding ramp and allow and help the wheelchair to board. The video also highlighted that only one wheelchair at a time could be carried by the bus. Following the video, the Chairman asked Mr Pope for a response to some of the issues raised in the video. Mr Pope pointed out that in the video two of the drivers had helped the wheelchair to board the bus and one had not. He confirmed that the buses could only carry one wheelchair at a time without the need to remove seats or loss of space for pushchairs and buggies. Mr Pope added that he understood the difficulties faced by disabled passengers but felt they should be able to access buses without the aid of ramps but by the use of adequately raised kerbs at bus stops. Raised kerbs would also assist the elderly and those using pushchairs, buggies and shopping trolleys.

The Chairman referred to a report recently approved by Norfolk County Council Cabinet which stated from October 2004 the County Council had the duty to assess bus stop facilities such that disabled people are not discriminated from using them. This would include the reasonable provision of facilities such as blister (tactile) paving for the people who are visually impaired. The Chairman also referred to Government guidance which implied that all new buses must have the facility to carry wheelchairs and that drivers must ensure that portable ramps are carried. Referring to drivers providing assistance, the guidance stated that if a disabled person asked for assistance the driver must provide this. Bearing this in mind, the Chairman asked Mr Pope why First Bus left this decision up to the driver? In response Mr Pope said this issue was discretionary on the grounds of Health & Safety. He explained that a certain amount of kerb height was needed for the ramps to work safely and effectively and unfortunately this was not consistent at all bus stops. Mr Pope added that there was also an issue of security. Drivers were responsible for the takings carried on board. Concern was raised by Members to learn that bus drivers were responsible for the cash carried on board and that any loss would result in the driver making this up from their salary. In response to further questions put to Mr Pope the Committee were informed: First Bus do have a disability training programme developed in conjunction with the Disability Forum and undertaken by drivers; Drivers running late should have no relevance in whether or not to allow a disabled person to board; Other passengers do frequently help with disabled people in particular on the Park and Ride service; Risk Assessments are carried out for the operation of the ramps; 87% of the current fleet of buses are equipped for wheelchair access and these buses are allocated certain routes to provide continuity; The re-introduction of bus conductors is not cost effective;

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Helen Smith, the Anglia TV reporter shown in the video said she was not aware that the buses were only able to take one wheelchair at a time. This was not explained to her during filming otherwise she would not have tried to get two wheelchairs on board together.

During further debate, Ms Whitaker commented that not allowing more than one wheelchair on at a time was discrimination. She added that although raised kerbs throughout the County was an aspiration, this was not going to happen overnight and therefore it was important to address the problems faced by disabled people now. Ms Whitaker asked if there were any drivers who had requested dispensation to not help people with disabilities or were their decisions made on a whim. Mr Pope responded that a dispensation was not relevant under these circumstances as each passenger, bus stop and incident was different. He re-iterated that to allow more than one wheelchair on board, seats would have to be removed. Furthermore, drivers are told by the company to help where they can, drivers were certainly not issued with an instruction not to help. Mr Hanning informed the Committee that Norfolk County Council had been pro-active in providing 100 new boarding points across the County. The future programme was also to ensure the installation of many more particularly along identified routes such as Gt Yarmouth and Swaffham. Mr Hanning added that there were over 6,000 bus stops in Norfolk and that it was not practical to replace these all in one go. The Chairman again referred to the Government Guidance and the different interpretation of the regulations surrounding disabled passengers. She pointed out that it was hard to reconcile the guidance with what was actually taking place. First Bus should be more disability-friendly and their policies were certainly not best practice. It was suggested that the Committee seek clarification from the Minister for Disabled People on this issue. Mr Hanning suggested that information was sought from other authorities on best practice to bring back to the Committee. This information could also help in lobbying the Minister. Conclusion The Committee agreed that the bus companies must send a clear and consistent message to the disabled on what the legislation is; seek information from disabled people groups representing disabled people on their experiences; seek best practice information from other local authorities; seek clarification from the Minister for Disabled People on the current Government Guidance.

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set an appropriate date and time of meeting (in order to include several disabled people unable to attend today's meeting) to follow up on this issue.

The Chairman thanked Anglia TV for attending the meeting for this item. 4. FIRST BUS - RELIABILITY AND PERFORMANCE ISSUES Mr Hanning presented the report highlighting the recent level of performance of First Bus and further progress the company has made in implementing their Quality Commitment Plan proposals. Mr Scutter referred to the monitoring results for the first half of 2004 contained in the report and pointed out that the figures shown for April to June were, in most cases, worse than those shown for January to March. In effect, the situation was not improving but getting worse. The Committee noted that, in mitigation, First Bus argued that there had been a significant amount of roadworks in central Norwich over this period which caused congestion and created difficult operating conditions. Referring to the problems caused by roadworks, Mr Panes asked Mr Pope what monitoring takes place on the affects of congestion and roadworks. Mr Pope said that drivers are equipped with radio communication to alert other drivers when and where problems arise on route. Ms Rooza referred to the on-going roadworks in and around Chapelfield with traffic each way down to a single lane as a result. She suggested that a bus lane could be installed each way when the development is complete as the current single lane had not appeared to have had much effect on traffic flow. Mr Pope supported this suggestion. Mr Ralph acknowledged the increased amount of roadworks currently in and around the City. The new major development in Chapelfield had noticeably displaced vehicles onto other routes and there were also public utility works being carried out. In addition, there was the new access arrangements for the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital and work underway at the Cringleford Park and Ride. Ms Whitaker referred to paragraphs 2.2 and 2.6 regarding the BusNet system and asked if this had been installed and if so, in how many buses? (It was noted that the Appendix outlining all bus routes in Norfolk with existing BusNet capabilities, and the date this could be utilised was omitted from the papers. Mr Hanning confirmed this would be circulated to Members).

In response, Mr Hanning explained that BusNet was a powerful system and hoped to have it installed on the majority of vehicles although it was expensive and therefore would have to be rolled out gradually. The system basically gave up to date information and the ability to make decisions quickly. It will pinpoint poor performance and assist in future planning. Mr Hanning added that Councillors will soon be invited to view the system and what it can do. Mr Pope commented that BusNet was currently being trialled in Kings Lynn and to date was a success. Mr Morphew commented that in the past he had heard numerous promises from First Bus but again today had only heard excuses for the poor performance. Mr Morphew asked what responsibility had First Bus taken to provide a decent service. During further debate the following comments and suggestions were put forward by the Committee: Timetabling - it was important to get it right; Ensure the timetable is printed in readable size font for those with impaired vision; Concern was raised regarding the problems faced by people with learning difficulties coping with timetable changes; Introduction of on street ticket machines; Ensure journeys depart and return from the same stops; Should not forget that other companies also operate bus services.

Conclusion The Committee agreed the conclusions set out in the report in particular that the Council must continue to assess the performance of First Bus, especially in Norwich, as well as other operators, and strive to improve timekeeping performance and seek to promote best practice amongst operators for the benefit of the travelling public. The Committee would receive an update on the issues raised at a future meeting.

5.

NORWICH ORBITAL BUS SERVICE In presenting the report, Mr Hanning outlined the proposals for the new Norwich Orbital Bus Service, which is expected to commence operation in April/May 2005, subject to DfT approval. Exert from PTEWED minutes Mr Hanning said that he was pleased to secure the funding for the new route but recognised there were different ways of operating the route to meet the needs of Norfolk people. He was therefore happy to take on board the Committee's comments and suggestions. Enlarged maps showing the original proposed route together with the route proposed following consultation with the Labour Group, were circulated to the Committee for comment. During debate the following comments and suggestions were put forward by Committee Members: The route proposed by the Labour Group (closely following the outer ring road) was welcomed as more manageable apart from using the Eaton Road close the CNS School. This road already had congestion problems with the existing traffic calming which would be made worse with the addition of a regular bus service. It was agreed that the Orbital Route should be a circle but it was recognised that Broadland Business Park should be serviced as part of the route. Ms Rooza welcomed the alternative route as many people living on the Earlham Estate would be able to make use of the route travelling to work. However, she did not feel it necessary to travel down the Earlham Road as this had been narrowed considerably by the installation of pedestrian refuges. It would be better kept to the outer ring road. Ms Whitaker also welcomed the alternative route proposed by the Labour Group as it would enable those travelling to the UEA or the N&N Hospital for instance, to do so without taking two buses. Ms Whitaker pointed out that in order to keep up with possible new developments on greenfield and the outskirts of Norwich in the future, the route should remain flexible. Mr Jimenez pointed out certain anomalies for those boarding in the Catton area. He suggested that the route was trying to achieve too much and that a more straight forward route be used.

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Mr Panes explained to the Committee that the alternative route (which he had driven three times) was also designed to achieve the interchange with the county and suburb buses, in particular on the Ipswich, Newmarket, Drayton and Aylsham Roads. Mr Panes had the timings of the journey if Members were interested. Referring to the part of the route between the Broadland Business Park and Norwich Railway Station, Mr Panes suggested that this part of the route be an express service. Mr Panes also pointed out that it was important to get the marketing and public perception correct.

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The Chairman concluded that it was important to agree on a sustainable route connecting people with their places of work and to the interchanges for other routes out of the City. She thanked Mr Panes for his dedication to this issue. Referring to the evening service, Mr Hanning explained that this would be a different type of service with a more flexible operation. This was an opportunity for Members to come up with ideas to make the best use of the service. Mr Hanning added that unfortunately there were funding constraints and therefore necessary to make the best use of resources. Ms Whitaker asked the following questions: Is there limitations to what West Norwich Community Transport can operate and what questions were asked? Until what time do the PTU envisage the service operating? Will this coincide with the shift patterns of large employers?

In response, Jeremy Wiggins said that a series of questions were put to the operator and employers. The responses were very positive and flexible. The PTU would now work with the employers and the operator to come up with the best package. Mr Panes suggested that the evening service should include the hospital and the railway station which would serve two markets. In conclusion, Mr Ralph was pleased with the input on both papers discussed at the meeting, this was good for the service. He referred to the Local Transport Plan and that public transport was a high priority in the guidance in terms of modal shift. He agreed that partnership working was important although much was down to money. However, if continued debate takes place this can only improve the situation.

Conclusion The Committee's comments on the proposals for the Norwich Orbital Bus Route would be taken into consideration before the final proposals are presented to Cabinet. The Chairman thanked Mr Pope for attending the meeting to answer questions. The Officers were also thanked for their attendance, the Committee were very appreciative of the work they done on the Orbital Bus Route. (The meeting concluded at 6.25pm)

CHAIRMAN

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