This month, we enjoyed another brilliant Bath Business Breakfast with nourishment provided by The Forum team, followed by a productive and positive discussion, this time focused on Transport and Access to the city for businesses. 

The meeting was attended by around 50 business people with expert facilitation from transport and accessibility expert Charles Brindley (ActiveThinking) and speakers Sophie Broadfield (B&NES Council), Thomas Hughes (First Bus), John Mason (Labyrinth Night Club), Jess Merritt-Johns (Jollys), Rich Middleton (GWR) and Thomas Hughes (First Bus). 

The discussion split into several areas, but particular concern was expressed from businesses who have staff either required to be present in person at a specific time or outside of the main operating times of public transport or the park and ride services. 

There was general agreement that staff working shift patterns cannot afford the parking costs in the city centre and that alternative solutions need to be found if city employment is not currently available for workers based in the satellite towns, which may or may not be located in B&NES. 

There was a lot of discussion about the Park and Ride. Generally, the complaints are that the services is unreliable and that the timings don’t work for the night time economy whether to serve customers or workers in that sector. The participants at the breakfast had lots of ideas for improvement, particularly extending the hours and starting earlier on Sundays for churches and leisure as well as exploring the options for pre-booked park and ride buses outside of the normal hours. A culture bus idea linking ticket purchases with a prebooked park and ride bus could be explored. It was agreed that the BID will pick up this conversation and provide the Council team with some prioritised requests for a trial period for extending the park and ride operating times. There was also a suggestion that users of the Tier Scooters and Bikes could park for free at the Park and Ride sites to encourage use of those vehicles. Sophie Broadfield from B&NES Council agreed to look at the contract and see what modifications were possible. 

Linked to this, there was a suggestion that the Tier contract for scooters and bikes could be adapted to support night-time workers to use them to get home or to get back to the park and ride. It was acknowledged that the night-time use of the vehicles did present a risk of drunk riding, this could be avoided by finding a way of restricting night time use for designated travellers, particularly workers in the night time economy.   

Cars driving to and from school were identified as a significant source of congestion which is really noticeable by its absence when the schools are not operating. Businesss were keen to hear what was being done to tackle car use amongst parents. There was some discussion about school streets and a suggestion that to encourage school travel by bus, the first term of school could be offered for free, along the lines of the month of free travel for birthdays.  This suggestion will be put forward to WECA as part of the partnership arrangements with B&NES Council. 

The recent announcements around parking charges for motorbikes were raised by businesses who felt that the unintended consequences of this additional charge was that people working either late at night or early in the morning would now be priced out. Similarly, people working in the night-time economy and using a non-compliant vehicle have to pay the CAZ fee twice; once when they come into work before midnight and again as they leave after midnight. The Council will look into this and report back. 

One very creative but long-term vision, was that the Park and Ride sites could be serviced by autonomous shuttle vehicles which would resolve the need for costly drivers of buses.   

After the meeting, Rich Middleton from GWR shared some positive developments on the railway network: 

  • Pay as you Go – covers travel to work area, means half price single tickets and day/weekly guarantee on fares (only available within the WECA area so cannot be used for commuters from Wiltshire or Somerset) 
  • Long Weekender – better value ticket to/from London if you travel Fri/Sat and return Monday. 
  • Bristol – Bath – Oxford Train trial in Autumn – creating a strong offer to tourists who want to combine journeys in the three cities. 
  • Extra services on the Bristol-Bath-Westbury line, funded by West of England Combined Authority  

In conclusion, the debate was generally positive and the response by Sophie Broadfield, executive representing B&NES Council to issues raised made the meeting feel worthwhile. The BID will continue to support businesses by raising issues and creating opportunities for dialogue to enhance communication between the transport providers and managers and their users.