New Look and Growth Strategy for Taunton Park & Ride Agreed
- P&R Services to receive council funding until September 2019
- Councils and Buses of Somerset work towards self funded service
Having faced closure, Taunton Park & Ride now has a brighter future! Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and bus operator Buses of Somerset joined together in a partnership aimed at making the service financially self-funded from end 2019 onwards.
Somerset County Council established the Park & Rides at Taunton Gateway and Silk Mills in 2009, but in August 2018 announced that it was no longer able to fund the gap between revenue and cost to keep the service running.
Under the agreement, Somerset County Council remains responsible for the the Park and Ride sites and Taunton Deane Borough Council has agreed to fund the service until September 2019 to enable the viability to be developed by Buses of Somerset. Buses of Somerset will take responsibility for marketing and growing passenger numbers in a bid to secure its future by establishing the service on a purely commercial basis.
Councillor John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council said:
We are committed to this vital service for the people and businesses of Taunton which forms a key part of our wider investment strategy for the economic development of the area. These important edge of town transport links are essential for drivers looking for an efficient, cost-effective way of getting into the town centre, and are extremely beneficial to the local economy. The Council has made a one-off contribution of £170,000 to ensure the service stays up and running until next September and during this time we are supporting Somerset County Council and Buses of Somerset with their plans to deliver a financially sustainable model for our Park and Ride. Whilst this contribution cannot guarantee the long term future of the service, it has provided a window of opportunity to work with our County Council partners and Buses of Somerset to put the service on a sound footing while a commercially viable service is developed to complement existing parking provision.
Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said:
We fully support Buses of Somerset and Taunton Deane Borough Council with their aspirations to provide a self-funding park and ride service for Taunton. We’ve always appreciated the role of the park and ride, but in the past it was heavily subsidised and we simply no longer have the finances to do this. This refresh gives the service the best possible chance to continue operating commercially for years to come.
Alex Carter, Managing Director for Buses of Somerset said:
Today we are relaunching Taunton’s Park & Ride service. In partnership with the local authorities Buses of Somerset has been able to agree a strategy that put the Park & Ride service on a sustainable commercial footing, which means that it will no longer be reliant on council funding but be self funded and will continue to operate as long as enough customers will use it. We are confident that this will work and are fully committed to promote the service and attract more customers.
The three parties marked the start of the journey toward a commercially independent future of the service with the launch of newly branded vehicles earlier today at Castle Green in Taunton in the presence of representatives of both Councils and the Chamber of Commerce.
Over the past few months Buses of Somerset has developed a fresh new brand for the service with a stylish new look and a sharp colour scheme for vehicles, marketing leaflets, website and roadside signage to attract more users and improve the service’s sustainability.
Buses of Somerset will also upgrade the signage at the park sites and town centre to help customers easily locate stops that the services call at. To attract more customers, the bus operator is working with Musgrove Park NHS Trust to promote the use of the Park & Ride services with their staff. The partners are already taking steps to engage with Chamber of Commerce and Taunton retailers and employers.
Monday 24 December will see the introduction of a new fare structure that better reflects the costs of providing the service and aligns prices with demand and remains competitive with car parking charges. Customers will also be able to purchase tickets using the Buses of Somerset smartphone mTicket app from their mobile devices, making purchasing easier and speeding up boarding times. Tickets purchased on the app offer discounts on the equivalent cash purchase on buses.