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Corlink
Background

As part of the broader challenge of implementing the ‘Centre of Excellence’ programme, the County Council has developed Cornwall’s first demand responsive semi-flexible public transport services. The first three schemes were launched in July 2002, through successful bids to the government’s Rural Bus Challenge initiative.  Two of these schemes, in the east of the County, were developed in partnership with Plymouth City Council.  A fourth scheme was launched in Novemeber 2002 in the Carnon Vale area.  Unfortunately, due to lack of patronage, the Gunnislake and St Germans schemes had to be withdrawn, leaving two successful projects running to date.

This ‘Corlink’ branded service forms an important element of an integrated approach to public transport that ranges from conventional bus provision through to community transport.

The diagram below illustrates how the ‘Corlink’ services forwards the aims of the Centre of Excellence:

 

Identifying the Need

The need for Corlink services was identified on the basis of transport studies and research, public consultation, and stakeholder liaison. This work concluded that in the isolated areas of the County, people did not have access to a strategic level of public transport, nor is it the most effective means of serving the relatively small and scattered population. The consultation exercises also revealed that despite high car ownership, women, teenagers, people with disabilities, and the elderly felt particularly isolated and unable to access employment and education opportunities, health facilities, shopping, and leisure.

The Concept

Broadly, the ‘Corlink’ concept is based around four central elements:

  • Semi flexible vehicles operating within a specific area, which is reviewed regularly.
  • Key ‘interchange’ stops, where the ‘Corlink’ vehicles connect with conventional scheduled services.
  • Specifically timed interconnections with branded buses operating an enhanced scheduled service provision.
  • A dedicated Travel Dispatch Centre (TDC), which co-ordinates the ‘Corlink’ vehicle bookings, and the links to conventional services.

Project Implementation

A Project team led by Cornwall County Council was established to implement the ‘Corlink’ projects. This consisted of County Council and Plymouth City Council officers, and representatives from bus operators, and the Rural Transport Partnerships, as appropriate. The team had responsibility for overseeing all elements of the schemes.

• Branding and Publicity

photo: Corlink busIt was essential to have a strong branding for the public to become familiar with the concept. The distinctive ‘Corlink’ logo was designed ‘in-house’ and applied to the livery for all the vehicles (including those on the 55 and the T7 route), the bus stop flags and all associated publicity, thus enforcing the concept of a fully integrated transport package. A targeted campaign included a house-to-house publicity leaflet drop, press interviews, and presentations to individual user groups such as parish council’s, accessibility groups, health representatives and Youth Forums.

• Vehicles

Given the varying size and populations of each area, two twelve-seat and photo: Eight -seat Carnon Vale busone eight -seat vehicles cover the Bodmin area, with one eight–seat in the St German’s area respectively. Two eight-seat vehicles operate an overlapping shift system in the Carnon Vale area. However, there is flexibility to move vehicles between the schemes. In addition, four new super low floor vehicles operate on the enhanced service 55 route in the Bodmin area, and two on the enhanced service T7 route that integrates with the Carnon Vale minibuses. All the vehicles are wheelchair accessible.

The Travel Dispatch Centre (TDC)

The TDC is operated through a local bus operator – Truronian Ltd. To date, this has created two full-time and one part-time job. Mobisoft were awarded the contract to install the hardware and software systems necessary to book and co-ordinate vehicle deployment using mobile phone and satellite technology.

Infrastructure Enhancements

A programme of roadside infrastructure enhancements has been established, which involves the provision of new lay-bys, shelters with reactive lighting, and information boards, as appropriate. This is progressively being phased in throughout the project areas.

Monitoring

Study into the Impact of ‘Corlink’ on Social Exclusion (April 2003)

A snapshot survey carried out with the registered ‘Corlink’ passengers showed that:

  • 38% of passengers would not have made the journey at all had ‘Corlink’ not been available.
  • 14% of passengers would have had to get a lift.

Interviews with key service providers in the area show that support for the service is high, and that partnership opportunities could be identified.

The County Council recognise that in order to ensure the longer term sustainability of the Corlink bus services, the average subsidy cost per passenger needs to be reduced.  This is despite the advantages that the service brings in providing essential access to services.  To this end, the County Council are working with the operators to continually evolve the project and work with the community and operators to identify mechanisms to ensure the high quality, accessible service is maintained whilst reducing the cost of County Council support.  The successful Rural Bus Challenge bid in 2004 to expand and enhance the Corlink services in the Bodmin zone will provide an essential means of continuing this work.

Continuous Improvement

Patronage figures for Corlink across the Bodmin and Bissoe Valley zones average at approximately 700 per week.  This represents a 400% increase in patronage in the first 18 months of operation.  In addition, this figure is considered particularly significant in the Bodmin zone where the number of passenger trips is high in proportion to the level of population (approximately 2000).

Passenger satisfaction surveys are carried out on an annual basis in the Corlink operating areas.

Of the sample surveyed in the current ‘Corlink’ operating areas in May 2003:

  • 86% thought public transport should be given the greatest priority in improving local transport.
  • 49% used ‘Corlink’ at least occasionally.
  • 80% were satisfied with the ‘Corlink’ services (this is compared to approx. 50% satisfaction with conventional services).

However, the Management team now in place is continually looking for ways in which to improve and build on the schemes. These improvements include:

  • Provision of Real Time Passenger Information: a RTPI system has been developed along the service 55 route, which will increase confidence for those waiting at isolated bus stops, and improves the co-ordination of journeys between ‘Corlink’ demand responsive vehicles and conventional services. The system, awarded to ACIS in December 2001, and the system was launched in December 2002.
  • Zone Structure: it has become apparent that as demand for the services increases, the current software package needs to be restructured in order to accommodate these increasing demands.
  • Sharing Best Practice: The RBC process has enabled several similar schemes to be launched in other rural areas in the UK. The County Council has liaised with Lincolnshire County Council and Hampshire County Council in order to share best practice and experiences.

Photograph of the NTA AwardsFuture Proposals

West Penwith Innovative Transport Improvements

The County Council were fortunate to be awarded further Rural Bus Challenge funding in 2003 for a range of innovative transport solutions in the West Penwith area. 

When the original bid for this project was developed in partnership with First Devon and Cornwall (FDC), it was anticipated that, further to the completion of the FDC network review, there would be a need for another Corlink semi flexible service to operate in the area.  However, after the FDC review had been completed the majority of their services in the area were maintained and, as such the duplication of conventional services with a Corlink style service is no longer a feasible or sustainable option in the longer term. 

After confirming with DfT, the capital allocation originally set aside for the purchase of a new vehicle to operate the Corlink service will now instead be put towards the purchase of Almex Optima ticket machines with Real Time capability for the bus fleet operating out of Penzance.  It is felt that by investing the capital allocation in this way, real improvements can be delivered to bus travel in a rural area.  The Penwith area will also serve as a pilot to test Real Time SMS mobile bus information before rolling it out to other recent successful Challenge areas in Cornwall.

In addition, a range of other schemes for West Penwith will be rolled out over the course of this year, including the introduction of a taxi bus (the first in Cornwall) and local community bus initiatives.

For further information please contact vfraser@cornwall.gov.uk
Last revised - 16th July 2004