Young people in Wiltshire worked with the Council Youth Development Service to organise a Transport Conference to bring together young people, decision makers and local transport providers to identify transport problems and seek solutions.
In the rural county of Wiltshire young people were unhappy with transport provision. In particular they focused on the ages at which young people were required to pay full fare, as this varied between different bus companies in the county. This meant that many young people had to pay the full fare to attend their full-time education courses.
There is a well-established system of area meetings for young people in the county, known as Children and Young People's Issues Groups (CAYPIGs). The County Council Youth Development Service Voice and Influence Team support the CAYPIG meetings in the 18 areas of Wiltshire. They were aware that the issue of transport was consistently being raised by young people at their local meetings.
Voice and Influence Team workers proposed a countywide transport conference in February 2010 to bring together representative young people from the CAYPIGS to meet with elected members, transport providers and council officers.
What they did
The transport conference was organised by Wiltshire Youth Development Service and Wiltshire Assembly of Youth (WAY). One hundred young people aged 13 to 19 attended the day conference along with representatives from two of Wiltshire's largest bus companies - First Group and Stagecoach (Swindon and Hampshire). The Wilts and Dorset Bus Company also attended the conference and were joined by local community transport providers. They shared their position with young people and shared examples of initiatives that are already in place to help improve both access to and the cost of transport for young people.
Working in community area groups with representatives from different organisations participating in each discussion, young people were asked to identify the primary transport issue for young people on a county wide level.
The top three issues that came out of these discussions were:
1. The cost of transport:
- the cost of a child fare should extend to all young people up to the age of 18
- too many pricing inconsistencies exist both within and between service providers
- young people aged 16 to 18 are required to pay for their transport to and from their place of education.
2. Not enough direct bus routes:
- Young people from rural areas often have to take two different buses to reach their nearest town.
3. Bus timetabling:
- Young people found that they often have to wait between 30 minutes to an hour between buses when trying to access the major towns from villages and isolated areas.
Young people were asked to vote on their top two priorities and then worked in community area groups, with the transport representatives, to provide some solutions to the problems they had identified.
Outcomes and impacts
Wiltshire Assembly of Youth (WAY) had introduced the call for standard fares across Wiltshire as part of its 2005 agenda for action. Since that time they had petitioned and lobbied individual bus companies and elected members and held meetings with transport officers in the council.
The Transport Conference was the first time that young people and transport providers had met together on a county wide basis. It was an opportunity not only to share problems, but also to work together to find solutions. Outcomes included:
- Twenty young people signed up to be part of a countywide transport development steering group in order to ensure that the work would be taken forward.
- One of the bus companies, Wiltshire and Dorset Bus Co., announced that they would standardise their adult fare to 18 years and above on all their routes with immediate effect.
- A statement was put forward to young people in the form of a pledge signed by the bus companies, officers from Children and Young People's Service and Wiltshire council's portfolio-holder for Transport: "Over the next six months we will work together towards a fairer transport deal for young people in Wiltshire up to the age of 16".
- Elected members were positively influenced by the conference and as a result the Council Cabinet made £100,000 available to area boards (these are attended by councillors, Cabinet members, the police, local NHS, town and parish councillors, local residents and young people), to respond to transport issues for young people.
- Melksham Area Board held a participatory budgeting meeting, where six groups of young people presented their ideas on ways to improve transport and access for young people. The attendees awarded the money to the most promising ideas.
The Transport Conference was a high-profile event that brought together decision makers and young people and built on the lobbying and campaigning work by CAYPIGs and WAY. The commitment and persistence of young people, supported by youth workers, to work for change over an extended period, enabled good communication and relationships to be built with decision makers so that young people's views were listened to and taken seriously. The conference then provided a catalyst for change and gave increased attention to this area of work.
While this event resulted in some immediate improvements for young people, some issues were not resolved. If planning this again, it would be good to carry out more detailed research into the business case for change in order to influence commercial bus companies. Some suggested that as part of the conference preparation, a useful approach would be to pilot their ideas and maintain data on:
- who uses buses
- their age
- the impact of reduced fares on overall revenue.
A video of the MOVE IT!! Transport Conference - on the YouTube website