Agenda item

Witness Sessions

The Panel has invited representatives from Metrobus, Manor Royal Business District (MRBD), WSCC and CBC to help inform their investigation.


Patrick Warner, Head of Innovation Strategy (Metrobus), Steve Sawyer, Executive Director (MRBD) and Darryl Hemmings, Planning and Transport Policy Manager (WSCC) have been invited to assist the Panel by offering the Members their views on sustainable transport, eco-friendly vehicles and to understand the challenges the services face – now and in the future, together with the provision of support currently being provided.


Councillor Peter Smith (Crawley Borough Council) has also been invited as the Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development as having responsibility for Transport Planning in liaison with relevant partners (with acknowledgement that WSCC has overall responsibility for Transport itself).


Whilst the individuals named above identifies those witnesses anticipated to speak at the meeting, this may change subject to availability and, at the discretion of the Chair. Further witnesses may be called in addition or instead of those listed above should they be unavailable.



The Chair provided some background information on the Panel then witnesses were asked to offer views on providing sustainable transport and eco-friendly vehicles and to understand the challenges the services face – now and in the future, together with the provision of initiatives and support currently being provided.


Patrick Warner, Head of Innovation Strategy (Metrobus), Darryl Hemmings, Planning and Transport Policy Manager (WSCC), Steve Sawyer, Executive Director (MRBD), together with Councillor Peter Smith (Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development - CBC), updated the Panel as follows:



·        The company had an innovative approach to reducing emissions.  The current ultra-low emission diesel buses were amongst the cleanest vehicles on the road, particularly compared to passenger cars.

·        Trials of pure electric buses have previously taken place in Crawley and Brighton however there were limitations with battery range and operating hours and consequently impractical for intensive commercial operation.

·        There was an ambitious target to full zero emissions bus operation fleet powered by clean hydrogen made from renewable wind energy and water by 2030.  Crawley could see introduction by 2021, or much earlier for the high frequency services.  Until this time, some areas were seeing a new generation of extended range of hybrid electric buses, with on-board Euro6 diesel generator and the ability to geo-fence an area of electric only mode.

·        The future brings challenges; cost and behaviour change.  It will be important to make bus travel an attractive choice; making them easily accessible, include free wi-fi, promote the advantages and improve the waiting environments.

·        It was important to work with partners to maximise and enhance the potential, including working with the Road Haulage Association for example with refuse trucks.


Panel Members raised a number of queries. The issues raised and the key responses included:


·        It was acknowledged that the primary reasons for lack of bus travel was convenience, cost and lack of understanding.  There was a need for innovation and collaboration in reducing journey times, increasing journey speeds and creating a choice to drive modal shift.

·        It was recognised that whilst the introduction of the zero emission fuel cell electric buses was costly, it had advantages over retrofitting the vehicles as the technology would be compliant. 2030 was an ambitious target for the whole fleet however the fact the whole fleet would be powered by hydrogen was seen as an asset.

·        The partnership working was praised, together with the benefits for any sustainable transport links in new developments to be considered in the future.

·        With regards to network development, it would be beneficial to take a holistic view for the wider network. There would be variation of existing routes but there was a need to serve the needs of the public, cut congestion whilst reaching key destinations.

·        There was recognition that “Superhubs” were a good example of how to improve the waiting environment and change behaviour.  Additional benefits included free trial travel in new neighbourhoods or employment and working in partnership when new routes were development and major road work disruption took place.

·        Further information was provided on the air filtering bus that had recently been trialled in Southampton.  Crawley may soon trial a similar system whereby the air filtration technology was incorporated into the bus itself.

·        Metrobus constantly monitors fleet, passenger numbers and volume to ensure routes are efficient as possible, although it recognised the longer routes (100) were inclined to suffer delays.  It was acknowledged that the majority of operator costs were wages.

·        The current partnership working was welcomed and it was hoped there would be more opportunities to further strengthen this in the future.




·        WSCC liaises with strategic partners in terms of transport.

·        It was recognised that Crawley had approximately 11% of bus use.  This was compared with other West Sussex use of approximately 4%.

·        Currently there was a West Sussex Transport Plan (2011-2026) which was currently being reviewed to include reference to the Climate Change Strategy and provide equal weight to access to services and health.

·        There was a question as to what transport infrastructure needed to be in order to meet the future needs of climate change. 

·        The current challenges were highlighted that presently within the annual capital scheme and Crawley Growth Programme (CGP) there was no prioritisation for climate change and there was no discretion as to how the money was spent.  It was recognised that the funding had to be spent on specific schemes.  Potentially in future the criteria may alter.  The deliverability of the schemes was key in order for them to be successful but also change travel behaviour.  Partnership working was paramount.

·        There was an acknowledgement that the current Crawley Borough Local Plan 2015-2030 included a transport strategy.


Panel Members raised a number of queries. The issues raised and the key responses included:


·        It was confirmed that whilst that there were different areas within the county such as the densely populated town of Crawley and towns with more rural areas such as Horsham, there would be one Transport Strategy covering the whole county.  There would be different approaches able to respond to each area.

·        WSCC was responding to increased use and developing infrastructure.  There was been an increase in the number of electric vehicle charging points following the increase in usage.

·        It was anticipated that the new Transport Strategy would be out for consultation 2021.

·        The Panel suggested some alternative proposals for reducing carbon emissions throughout the town such as free parking for electric vehicles and pedestrianisation of areas.  Whilst WSCC would be happy to consider proposals there would be a need to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of any suggestions.




·        Manor Royal Business District covers over 600 businesses – 80% of people travel by car.

·        Gateway 1 in Manor Royal was the busiest entrance. 

·        It was important to consider what kind of transport was necessary – there was a need to design a place for people “People & Places”.

·        Irrespective of the environment it had to be accessible, comfortable, cost-effective and services had to be effective.

·        How people use a space was important; safe, welcoming, well maintained. In terms of buses this equated to the waiting environments or Superhubs.

·        The place making in Manor Royal, along with the partnership working and pedestrianisation had benefited the economy.



Panel Members raised a number of queries. The issues raised and the key responses included:


·        There was a recognition that the environment was paramount in changing behaviour.

·        Whilst it was acknowledged that it would be an expensive infrastructure project, further information was requested on a possible “park and ride” for Manor Royal and/or the town.  The number of commuters into the town on a daily basis would require multiple “park and ride” locations which unfortunately was not viable.

·        It was recognised that parking was an issue within Manor Royal and some companies incentivise their employees, some have parking management plans.

·        Freight was a contributing factor to Manor Royal’s success and yet also a large generator of traffic. In terms of climate change the planting of trees and slowing of traffic speed assisted without impinging on businesses.  Although it was noted that Metrobus work in partnership with other agencies to share improvements beyond bus travel in relation to fleet vehicles.



Councillor Peter Smith, CBC

·        It was acknowledged that the town had its challenges; parking, congestion, pollution, Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), following by the climate change declaration. The council’s policies and strategies such as Planning and working with partners ensure that the right infrastructure is in place to meet the needs of the town and well as conserving natural resources.

·        The ‘New Directions for Crawley’ document provided issues and options for Crawley Transport Strategy.  It set out a vision for future transport infrastructure and services in Crawley whilst also presenting an outline of proposals for the first phase of delivery towards that vision.

·        It was acknowledged there was a need to transform transport and access throughout the town, whilst reducing carbon emissions, improving safety, air quality and reducing congestion.


Panel Members raised a number of queries. The issues raised and the key responses included:


·        It was recognised that behaviour change was a key concern.  There was an incentive needed to publicise sustainable transport improvements (possibly through CGP).  It was commented that on average bus travel was more consistent.

·        It would be beneficial to advertise and promote the benefits of public transport, including using the rail network more regularly (through CGP).



That Panel Members thanked all witnesses for their attendance and contribution.  The presentations had been most interesting and informative.