The Guernsey Bus Users Group responds to the Environment Department’s comments on the public consultation period for the proposed bus fare increase

July 13th, 2010 by Fergus

The original Media release from the Environment Department was embargoed to 00:01 on 25th June. It says at the end that comments from the public must arrive “no later than Friday 9th June 2010

The States of Guernsey Environment Department has emphasised the low response rate to the proposed bus fare increase.   This is done

1) by drawing attention to the claim that almost half its responses were received “soon after the consultation period closed”. This could be because, some time after the 25th June, the Environment Department appears to have realised that the deadline should have been the 8th July, to fit within a strict interpretation of “14 days”, as set in law, from 00:01 on 25th June. However this new deadline was not announced.

By lunchtime on 9th July, members of the public found to their surprise that the website link for responding had been removed from gov.gg, along with the 25th June media release itself.

The Environment Department therefore needs to clarify its definition of responses “received within the legally defined period” – the subject of its fourth paragraph in today’s open letter to Deputies and the media. Does this include or exclude responses received on 9th July? If it excludes them, is this fair, since that was the deadline which the Environment Department gave?

2) by noting the 39 responses and stating that “the total number of responses represents less than 2% of regular bus users”. Without knowing which organisations responded on behalf of which members, it is hard to confirm this number. The Bus Users Group (BUG) response alone represented 79 views – 77 survey respondents and two BUG Officers. Furthermore, some members of the public told us they did not complete our survey because they were unhappy with it’s technical wording, although they supported our stance. If other organisations also represented members or supporters who did not otherwise respond, the Environment Department’s number could be short of the mark.

The Environment Department has used the claim of a low response rate, to justify ignoring the voice of the respondents. The Environment Department and the Bus Users Group (BUG) agree that the buses are unloved by a significant portion of the population, possibily a majority of the Island – our own survey confirms that at least 30% see no benefit to non-bus users. But whereas the Environment Department seems content with the status quo, BUG would like them to accept the challenge – to make the buses loved. BUG’s stated aim is that bus use should double in the short-term. Where is the equivalent ambition at the Environment Department?

We want to be co-operative. We are in the group which “would not necessarily be opposed to a rise if there were commensurate measures…”. However, the Environment Department letter makes no concession to this view. It recalls steps taken in the past, and implies that these are sufficient mitigants for the current proposal. It explicitly rejects the notion that a fare rise in isolation could discourage bus use. Where is the desire that bus use should continue growing in the future, as part of a road transport strategy? Where is the concern that the average Islander apparently takes the bus “there-and-back” only once a month? The opportunity, which BUG pointed out in its consultation response, to reinforce the pro-bus message during this apparently anti-bus process, continues to be ignored.

BUG is grateful for the intervention of the Deputies who questioned the Environment Department’s plans, and hopes that they will continue to press for a more balanced approach, when they meet the Department on the 26th July.

Fergus, Coordinator, Bus Users Group

www.bug.gg

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