Presentation by Head of Transport, Tees Valley Combined Authority
The Head of Transport, Tees Valley Combined Authority, gave a presentation (previously circulated) providing Members with a Transport update.
The presentation outlined the Strategic Transport Plan (STP) vision and objectives; details were provided of the STP themes; and there were 32 high-level actions and interventions identified in the STP, with good progress being made against these actions. Members requested further details of the performance framework used to monitor progress.
Details were provided of progress against the STP themes; National Rail, Major Roads, Connecting Centres, Unlocking Key Sites, Local Journeys and Social Equality and Environment; and the delivery of actions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Particular reference was made in respect of progress for improved national rail services; a collaborative response had been submitted to the East Coast Mainline May 2022 proposals, with a further announcement imminent; and that this would be shared with Members.
Discussion and challenge ensued on the progress of the Darlington Northern Link Road; Members were informed that an outline business case had been completed and various funding opportunities were being considered to progress the scheme. The Portfolio Holder for Local Services assured Members that this was a priority.
Particular discussion ensued on the bus service in Darlington. Members felt that the buses were unreliable; that the information for customers at bus stops was inadequate and outdated; and that the online app was not user friendly. The Head of Transport confirmed that a new national bus strategy had been published; that the local transport authority would be pursuing an enhanced partnership with bus operators to deliver bus service improvement via five key areas; decarbonization, service delivery, infrastructure, fares and improving customer experience. The Tees Flex service was in place for a contract term of three years at a cost of £1M per year, with 9 vehicles providing a service across the Tees Valley to address gaps in the network. Members requested details of costing per passenger and it was proposed that Arriva be invited to a future meeting of this Scrutiny to discuss operational issues in Darlington.
Reference was made to the future funding including the future devolved budget; Members were advised of the announcement of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement; and that over £27M of additional funding had been secured in 2020/21, with an additional investment of £500M being sought for major schemes including Darlington Station.
Following a question in respect of the transport options for the night time economy; the Head of Highway Network Management advised members that the Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham was aware of the issues raise and had identified a number of proposal to address these, including night time buses and taxi marshals; further information would be provided to Members when available.
RESOLVED – That the thanks of this Scrutiny Committee be extended to the Head of Transport, Tees Valley Combined Authority for his informative and interesting presentation.