Written evidence submitted by Chew Valley Area Forum Climate & Nature Emergency Working Group (CVAF C&NEWG) (BUS0042)


CVAF C&NEWG was formed 18 months ago to endeavour to look strategically at what was needed across the rural area of the chew valley, in order to make significant shifts towards decarbonisation. This report is written by the Sustainable Transport Subgroup. Our response is informed by a detailed survey carried out in 2021 across the parishes of the Valley, so most of our response is to point e) below.


We received responses from 410 households, representing 1187 individuals.


Our group has met monthly and functioned efficiently on zoom throughout the pandemic,. We have attracted significant interest and have used the opportunity of covid to focus energy and attention on decarbonisation and on encouraging some of the unintentional decarbonisation positives of lockdown such as home working, increased use of active travel (and habits developed towards walking and cycling when the roads were so much quieter) begun in lockdown.


Our 2021 survey had a significantly higher uptake than the WECA BISP survey and we believe part of the reason for this is that we build grassroots interest across a range of networks (from word of mouth, to OParish Council comms networks  to Social Media) to engage people in thinking about their travel habits and in particular what it would take for them to change their habits towards lower carbon solutions.


The 7000+ page report ‘Have Your Say: Sustainable Transport in the Chew Valley’ is available on request. Having sent the report to B&NES and WECA and received very positive feedback about its value, we are now part of regular meetings with B&NES and WECA officers, which is exploring how the recommendations of this report can be dovetailed into the area’s transport planning.


The Chew Valley is a rural area south of Bristol consisting of a dozen or so rural villages sitting within highly rural parishes. It is poorly served by public transport which does not go to every village. Where there is a service, in some cases it is a single bus travelling once a week and in other villages there are very infrequent services during the day time and on weekdays. Some villages have some limited evening and weekend coverage. Many bus routes are subsidised. Whilst some services run North to south enabling travel into Bristol (albeit twice the duration of a car journey) there is poor connectivity into these routes and no spaces for park and ride along these routes. Village lanes are narrow and unlit with poor sight lines and generally no pavements and are generally not considered safe for most people to walk or cycle on and the distances would at any rate be too far for most to be able to consider. Most bus stops do not have bus shelters,  there is no provision of lockable bike storage and bikes cannot be taken on to buses. Phone signal is poor meaning apps are unreliable and real time information is patchy.


Therefore most travel is by car and our survey showed only 3% of the population currently using electric vehicles and only 4% hybrid. At present there are only 3 public electric charging points across the whole valley, making transition to electric vehicles another huge shift


Clearly decarbonisation is a significant  challenge in this context


a) challenges facing the sector as it recovers from the pandemic and the effectiveness of steps taken by both Government and stakeholders in response;

Impact of covid


As a result of covid bus services initially stopped completely and then returned slowly.


At present 75% of 2019 traveller figures overall have returned but only 55% of those with concessionary passes (who make up a large amount of the travelling public. Reasons for this are not clear but could be linked to actual and perceived risk of covid and the higher percentage of clinically vulnerable people in this age group.


Even before covid people experienced bus services in the valley as unreliable, not joined up, too infrequent at the wrong times and on the wrong routes to be used for work, education or most other purposes. Over the years services have dwindled and the one real success story (The Chew Valley Explorer which went around the valley joining villages to each other and to Bristol) had its funding cut despite the fact that over its three years in service it had been gradually growing its uptake. It was designed to allow bikes to be carried on the bus, but the technology of this was insufficiently developed meaning it was not fully able to meet its ambitions.


A shortage of drivers due to covid (and perhaps compounded by Brexit) has caused even greater unreliability in bus services, and also acts as a disincentive to travel (as people may feel that covid must spread easily on buses.


However, even if the driver issues could be resolved there is a need for joined up and reliable provision in order to meet the potential needs of valley dwellers. Our survey showed that an electric shuttle bus that connected villages to each other and the main arterial routes to Bristol, Bath, Wells, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton for work, education and leisure would be a game changer for changing habits (76% saying they would be more likely to use bus services if this was in place.) An effective DRT service was also seen as a popular option, particularly if there was app based booking and a through ticketing system.


There is also a confidence gap in public opinion about services and a huge grassroots campaign would be needed to win people to shift their transport  modality away from cars. Our report concludes that this should be focused on decarbonisation, given that 76% of respondents said they would be more likely to switch to buses if it lowered their carbon footprint.


b) progress against the ambitions and targets set out in national bus strategy including the effectiveness, pace and priority of the strategy’s implementation;

To the average person’s experience no progress has been made against the targets in terms of delivery. Behind the scenes we are aware of a good deal of creative and thoughtful consideration of the needs of bus users by officers and Council members within B&NES & WECA, with a clear vision for decarbonisation and service improvement.


It is clear that the main city of Bath has been initially prioritised for achieving modal shift with the implementation of a clean air zone and the trial of various forms of active travel. Within the schools system, the Modeshift Stars scheme is being rolled out in an attempt to educate children and their families towards active travel and individual parish councils have worked to improve accessibility for active travel by schemes such as the path around Chew Valley Lake.


c) innovation in the sector, including examples of new methods that have been trialled successfully;

Rural areas have been the poor cousins of public transport planning. There are extremely effective DRT schemes across the UK (in the Scottish Highlands and in Wales for instance), but this area is slow to adopt these. Locally DRT schemes are only able to service vulnerable people needing to get to medical appointments, and are extremely stretched because of year on year under funding and driver shortages.


d) bus funding over the short and long term; and

Having initially been promised £3million of government funding for bus improvements it appears the WECA has lost out, having this funding  cut in half. This needs to be called out for what it is: levelling down…which seems to be the natural consequence of levelling up in other parts of the country.


WECA has ambitious plans for multi-modal transport which we would commend within cities and towns. B&NES now has plans for hubs along the main transport corridors in the region but only those who are able bodied and living extremely close to these are likely to be able to access them.


Once a person has got into a car inorder to make a journey they are far less likely to then switch to public transport. We need to make the system work so that they no longer need the car (or at least the 2nd car which most households were seen to have.


e) decarbonisation of the sector and modal shift from other forms of transport.


Part of our reason for completing our survey was because the Chew Valley did not appear at all in WECA and B&NES plans for bus improvement. We wanted to show that demand would be there if significant creativity and resources could be put into this. We made the point that they majority of commutes to work are significantly longer than inner city commutes, so although there may be fewer people travelling, the majority were making their way into cities as single travellers in petrol cars, bringing emissions into the city. Seen in this context even underpopulated buses still represent significant carbon savings for the individuals using them, and cumulatively for the area.


Although the Chew Valley falls mainly in B&NES twice as many people commute to Bristol as anywhere else


The report shows that 20,000 miles are travelled to work by car across the 410 households in an average week. By contrast under 1000 miles a week are travelled for commuting by all other modalities (walking, cycling, dial a ride community transport)


The significance of the commute in terms of carbon footprint can be seen by the fact that 80% of all community is by private car or vehicle.


We have made the point that if WECA really wants to decarbonise transport it should consider adding a network of joined up electric buses out to rural areas, which link them to the main cities and towns in the area and to their villages, subsidised to the extent that it was cheaper to go by bus than maintain a car. Given the climatary cost of continuing to travel in petrol and diesel cars, any spending should be weighed in this balance. The increase health and wellbeing this would bring both locally and globally should be monetised so that it is calculated within any financial consideration.


Since being part of the regular B&NES/WECA transport meetings we have noticed that rural areas are more in the conversation and B&NES has indicated that if WECA were to run an innovation funding led DRT scheme, the Chew Valley would be the area they would choose for a pilot. Whilst this is gratifying to know we have no guarantees that this will ever reach the top of the list and meanwhile our carbon footprint for transportation grows despite our best efforts. This is a national issue for rural areas, and government needs to listen to the evidence gathered by rural areas such as the Chew Valley when considering the rural challenges.


Key findings:


People would be more likely to change to Public Transport and Active Travel if you:

Improve walking and cycling infrastructure


Run a regular and reliable cross valley shuttlebus out to the main arterial routes


Provide app based through ticketing


Create a grass roots comms plan about decarbonisation


Make it cheaper than running a car


Only 3% of car use is electric and hybrid 4%. To swap to electric vehicles people want financial incentives and fast local charging.


We offered a range of options for future travel and asked people to indicate how many people in their household would make use of these options if they were reliably available: this proviso seemed important given that the Post 16 Transport Survey flagged the poor availability of suitable transport and the unreliability of that which was available.


40% of those who answered this question, would be interested in a shuttle bus and this would be significantly more popular than dial a ride services, car pool or electric vehicle hire.


Individual preferences for modality shifts

945: Shuttle bus

233 Dial a ride using phone

213 Dial a ride using an app

357 electric vehicle hire

203 car pooling system

119 lift share

308 electric bike


We rate them here in their order of popularity (by those which are ‘very likely’ to change habits) but also note that when ‘very likely’ and ‘maybe likely’ are looked at together this gives a ‘more likely than not’ score in the final column, (with the popularity ranking given in brackets).  This shows that there are a range of measures which could lead to positive change towards lower carbon options. WECA and B&NES may find this helpful in prioritising investment and in thinking about how change might be introduced into the Chew Valley.



How likely would this be to change your travel habits?

Very Likely

Maybe likely

Very unlikely

More likely than not


If I could cycle more safely on Parish roads




78% (1)


If I could walk more safely on Parish roads




70% (6)

If it were cheaper to travel




74% (5)


If there was a regular shuttle bus between villages




66% (7)


If there was a regular shuttle bus to the A37 or A38 bus services




76% (2)

If we could buy a single ticket online to take us across different modes of transport




75% (4)


If we could take bikes on the bus/ back of the bus




66% (7)

If it decreased our carbon footprint




76% (2)


If my work/education allowed me to work flexi-time






If it meant we could get rid of a household vehicle




62% (9)


If there was a secure bike store next to the bus stop






If our work/education had a secure bike store






If my work/education had showers






If there were covered bus shelters






If buses were wheelchair accessible







Our ‘asks from the report were as follows:


We would ask B&NES & WECA to work with CVAF C&NEWG (Sustainable Transport) to scope the possibility of introducing the following measures:

       Improve Walking and Cycling infrastructure within and between villages and to arterial routes to encourage Active Travel integrated into normal journeys

       Run a cross-valley shuttle bus between villages & providing a link to A37/A38 & consider using electric buses (and emphasising the carbon footprint benefits)

       Make Public Transport cheaper than running a car (and advertise it in these terms with fare deals that encourage buy in to regular Public Transport use)

       Provide App-based planning, booking and tracking for Public Transport

       Incentivised methods for changing from petrol and diesel to electric cars (and buses)

       Provide a network of fast electric charging points across the Chew Valley

       Create a grassroots-up communications plan to build trust in Public Transport and community buy-in


We would be very happy to send the full report and/or speak to the Select Committee as appropriate.


April 2022