In 1986, Community First Oxfordshire (then called ORCC) launched the independent Parish Transport Representative (PTR) network, with the backing of the County Council, to give communities a means of voicing their needs and concerns about local transport. For the purposes of this network, “parish” may refer to both parishes and towns – and the term “local councils” encompasses town and parish councils, and Parish Meetings (except where Parish Meetings are excluded - as in some cases their powers are more restricted than town and parish councils).
It is not a requirement that a PTR is a parish or town councillor, although they are appointed by their local council. This appointment will take place as a result of a nomination to the position – either by a member of the local council, by another member of the community, or by the PTR themselves.
Meetings are held three times a year and provide an opportunity for officers to keep PTRs up to date on issues of which they need to be aware and also allow officers to gain feedback from PTRs in relation to issues within their area.
Actions as a PTR
With useful knowledge and contacts, and an interest in public transport services, you as PTR, will be able to help identify, raise and discuss the transport needs of your community.
The various ways in which you can act to fulfil this role to its potential are explained below:
- Get to know your local services. This means knowing first and foremost about local bus and train services and their meaning to people in your community. Who uses the services and for what purposes? Who relies on them and has no other means of transport? Who are your local operators? You should also get to know any local community transport schemes such as local minibus schemes or car schemes whether these are formal or informal.
- Make yourself known to people in the parish as the local transport representative so that when people have a transport issue they know that you are the first port of call. You can do this by having a regular entry in the local newsletter, updating residents on any transport issues, such as concessionary fare developments or changes in services. If you are a regular passenger on public transport you are likely to be talking to other regular users from the community and would hear first-hand what purposes they are using services for, or whether there are any issues which you should be reporting elsewhere. You could also ask the Parish/Town Clerk to make public transport a regular item on council meeting agendas, and talk to people working in the community such as an Age Concern Local Link worker or GP receptionist to find out more about transport issues.
- Publicise local transport information. This is a very important aspect of your role. Awareness of public transport can make a great difference to usage and making sure that your community knows exactly what the options (and benefits) are can help the services remain sustainable. Timetables can be confusing and off-putting for potential users, and there can be a number of different operators serving one community. You can make this simpler by including one transport information page in your local newsletter and keeping it updated. People with mobility impairments are often unaware of Community Transport and other services and letting them know about these services could greatly enhance their lives. Parish Transport Representatives can also help to monitor timetable displays (for example making sure that the information is kept up to date promptly when there are timetable or service changes) or report damage or vandalism of timetable cases. There is also a role in perhaps finding or suggesting new places at which to display public transport information in the parish.
- Carry out a transport needs survey. A transport needs survey can give much more specific data on the needs of residents in the community. Your parish council (or Parish Meeting) can gain support from Community First Oxfordshire and/or the Community Transport Team to carry out a transport needs survey. This can be a good opportunity to gain a more in depth understanding of the needs and practices of people in the village and the report can also be used to support any proposals which you may wish to lay out during a review (for example, creation of a Community Transport Scheme). If you represent a very large village or town, you may not be able to carry out a survey of the whole community as the resources required in doing so would be too great. However, you may be able to carry out a survey in a particular geographical area in the conurbation, or to carry out a survey of a particular group within the town (for example, a survey in a lunch club, or of the local youth group). You can also hold an online poll or basic online survey on the parishes website to get a sense of community appetite for alternative transport. You may also be able to talk directly to bus users whilst they wait at bus stops and can obtain useful data by asking the same series of questions to users. The Community Transport team and Community First Oxfordshire can provide support with transport needs consultations.
- Monitor services. An aspect of your role as PTR is to keep Oxfordshire County Council informed as to how local services are functioning. If the service is commercial, you may want to exert pressure on the bus company directly.
- Represent the needs of your community to the County Council. As stated above, the PTR meetings provide opportunities for you to communicate directly with officers, however, you may wish to contact them as and when an issue arises within your community. The Council’s Local Transport Plan sets out the Council’s plan for transport and you as PTR can play a role in its development.
- Set up a Community Transport Scheme. It may be that the lives of those in your community could be enhanced by the existence of a community transport scheme (mostly alongside public transport services). Could you be the founder or catalyst to starting one of these valuable enterprises within your community?
- Instigate other changes such as suggesting that the parish council look at building a bus shelter for bus users in the village. You may also think that there is a need for better cycling facilities (eg. tracks or bicycle racks) or that there are issues in relation to access via foot, perhaps to your local bus stop.
- Liaise with your parish council and report to them on transport matters. You can be a vital source of information for the council in relation to transport matters and can encourage them to take action where appropriate.
As PTR you are also a link between your community and the range of organisations and individuals involved in transport provision in the county.