The Leader introduced the item which, at the meeting Corporate Scrutiny Committee held on 1 February 2023, that committee in considering the report of the Public Transport Task and Finish Group had recommended that before Somerset West and Taunton Council ceased to exist, the Executive considered the report of the Public Transport Task and Finish Group with a view to forwarding it to the new Somerset Council for their appropriate consideration, if so minded.
Councillor Loretta Whetlor, as Chair of the Task and Finish Group, was invited to make remarks and summarised that it was felt important by Scrutiny that this report was considered by the new Council when in being. She thanked Officers and fellow Task and Finish Group members for their work on the Group.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:-
· The Task and Finish Group were thanked for their work by Executive Members and the conclusions would be taken close note of.
· The evening bus strategy which had linked towns across the District were enabling shift workers to get to and from work at all hours and to boost the night time economy, which had been hit by the pandemic.
· There was a plan to re-open Taunton Bus Station next year and there was a £1 fare scheme in Taunton.
· Significant early progress had been made since the Task and Finish Group had met.
· There were plans for talks about the linking up of the West Somerset Rail line with Taunton.
· The closure of the Bus Station was a decision by the private bus company at the time and the Councils had stepped in at the time to secure the site’s future. The Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funds would create a mobility hub at the site and would be an opportunity for a terminus with a proper waiting room, but these would be designed and consulted on later in the year.
· The hard work of the Task and Finish Group was recognised and it was felt valuable that the Group had engaged with stakeholders such as the Colleges.
· A query was raised as to whether any of the suggestions had been actioned e.g. writing of letters?
· None of the conclusions had been actioned and the proposal is that the new Council actions these if so minded, rather than try to rush these out before the end of March.
RESOLVED that the Executive agreed to forward the conclusions of the Public Transport Task and Finish Group to the relevant Lead Member at the County Council and the rest of the Somerset County Council Executive to consider and decide if any proposed conclusions can be taken forward.