Good Practice Database

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ISEMOA Good Practice Fact Sheet

Title in original language Little Red Bus (LRB) - North Yorkshire Integrated Community Transport Enterprise
Title in English Little Red Bus (LRB) - North Yorkshire Integrated Community Transport Enterprise
Location North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Year 2005
Initiator Local Authority & Local Community Transport (CT) Operator
Developed by
(one pick only)
  • Administration / Political actor
  • Operator
Implementation Area
  • Region
  • Rural
Supported accessibility level
  • Meso accessibility
  • Micro accessibility
Elements of the working process - Policy
  • Leadership
Elements of the working process - Strategy
  • Partnerships
  • People
Elements of the working process - Implementation
  • Supportive measures
Elements of the working process - Monitoring and Evaluation
  • User / society results
  • Stakeholder feedback
Type of PRM Affected
  • Visual impaired
  • Motor impaired
  • Hearing impaired
  • Cognitive / Learning impaired
Application Field / Target area - Public Transport - City Bus
  • Service
  • Vehicle
  • Stops / stations
Application Field / Target area - Public Transport - Regional Bus
  • Service
  • Vehicle
  • Stops / stations
Application Field / Target area - Public Transport - other
  • Name: Demand Responsive Rural Bus
  • Service
  • Vehicle
  • Stops / stations
Application Field / Target area - Public Space - Pedestrian / wheelchair
  • Availability
  • Quality
Application Field / Target area - Public Space - other
  • Name: Rural Accessibility
  • Availability
  • Quality
Why is it a good practice example? Little Red Bus is a good practice example because:
a) it is a partnership between 3 community transport operators and the local authority
b) it offers a range of transport services exclusively for those with a mobility restriction
c) it is a non-profit making service
d) all its vehicles are fully accessible
e) it offers coverage across the area of North Yorkshire
f) it uniquely was able to gain a substantial investment loan from Future Builders
Background and Objectives / Aims The North Yorkshire Community Transport Strategy (2004) was the result of a partnership initiative that sought to address the transport challenges faced in three areas of the County (Harrogate, Ryedale and Craven). It recommended a consolidated approach on a North Yorkshire-wide basis, but it also stipulated that all three community transport (CT) operators be allocated a proportionate responsibility for delivery. The resulting Little Red Bus (LRB) was developed as a response to the strategy and is envisaged as an unconventional transport network with a substantial trading capacity, rather than a merely being a CT with county-wide scope. It is, however, a CT in terms of its approach, ethos, personnel and operational standards, as well as being a collective whole of the three existing CTs within it.

Structurally, LRB is an umbrella organisation in the form of a consortium of the operators Harrogate District CT, Bentham CT and Ryecat Ltd, along with partners North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, Harrogate District Council, Yorkshire Forward (development agency), and North Yorkshire PCT. It describes itself as a ‘network’ whose objectives are to:
- To integrate voluntary and commercial transport providers to meet the requirements of local transport plans, regional special strategy and other relevant government and local transport strategies including the local community strategies and
- to expand services provided through the network to remove duplication and make more effective use of the transport resources available to health, education, social services and housing agencies.

LRB has adopted a strategic profile aligned to the various authorities, and is a response to the rurality of North Yorkshire (characterised by the sparseness of the population and, in the more remote areas, a dearth of affordable public transport options). LRB envisages itself offering “opportunities for established operators to work together to deliver more comprehensive and cost effective transport services [and] playing a major role in the integration and co-ordination of community and public transport in North Yorkshire.”

In addition to its strategic role, overhead functions are undertaken to service the individual CTs. In this capacity, LRB:
- provides an optimized booking / scheduling system
- maintains a live database of CT vehicle availability throughout the county for call-off use as relief vehicles at agreed contract rates
- provides specialist support and expertise in all technical areas including Transport Operation, HR management
- facilitates the more effective planning of strategic CT services and the development of standard flexible runs to meet local demand
- develops, implements and monitors service delivery and operating standards, with supporting documentation to assure compliance with minimum service requirements
- provides an online journey booking facility
- facilitates collaborative procurement for transport related goods and services, including vehicles, insurance, professional services etc
- provides centralised reporting of journeys delivered across the county by individual CT operators, by district and in total
- provides cost price training in transport related qualifications and disciplines including CPC, Midas, First Aid etc
- facilitates collaborative marketing to maximize service take up by commissioners and end users.

The operational elements of LRB encompass:
- Door-to-door services (dial-a-ride, car schemes, ‘shopper’ service).
- Demand Responsive Transport (DRT).
- Local registered bus services (market town and village links).
- Group transport via more than 35 vehicles on brokerage.
- Training services.
Implementation (incl. obstacles, public participation) It was clear from the outset that the social enterprise elements of the LRB would be substantial, although this would not entirely alleviate the need for district and county council grant-aid. LRB have carefully planned the balance between trading and core work, and anticipated the ways in which each can enhance the other.

Branding has been a vital issue for this project and there has been a conscious decision to name and market the service in a way that disassociates it with all established connotations with social care, ambulance service and even community transport. (It is LRB’s contention that ‘dial-a-bus’, ‘dial-a-ride’ etc have been devalued as brand names and are thus avoided.) The ‘Little Red Bus’ image (capitalising on a local description of Harrogate CT’s vehicles) has been marketed as a generic, non-service-specific brand, and accompanied by the website, publicity and promotional materials that have been designed and co-ordinated to a very high level of professionalism. (Ironically, the nature of vehicle procurement has resulted in not all LRB’s vehicle being red!)

The collective structuring of CT in North Yorkshire in this way has shifted planning, strategic development, and many management overhead functions to the level of the umbrella body, leaving the three CTs (still independently constituted) as local delivery bodies. All county and district funding, contract income, even donations and income from fund raising initiatives, are conducted through LRB.

LRB undertakes a large proportion of contract work for the local authority, and North Yorkshire County Council’s objective in assisting the development of the consortium was not only to address core CT and rural transport needs, but also to nurture a highly specialised and quality-assured provider of contract services. It also adopts a significant transport to healthcare services role.

The delivery of a high proportion of contracts has been central to the funding support strategy that LRB has entered into. This is perhaps the most radical aspect of LRB. In order to raise the profile of the organisation and enhance its operational capacity, a funding package was negotiated with Futurebuilders England, a government-backed investment fund of £125m delegated to develop and enhance voluntary sector initiatives. It is important to note that Futurebuilders essentially offer a loan facility rather than grants, albeit with a ‘softer’ non-commercial repayment regime. The LRB project was the first time they had worked with the CT sector.

The funding allocation from Futurebuilders totalled a full investment of £1,160,000 which breaks down as follows:
- £10,050 development grant
- £341,000 capital loan
- £530,000 guarantee to vehicle leasing company
- £160,000 overdraft guarantee
- £40,000 capital grant
- £30,000 revenue grant
- £5,000 capacity building grant
Of the £1.16m, 7.3% (£85,000) comprised of non-repayable grants. A Futurebuilders condition of funding is that 51% of the total budget income is ‘commercial’ i.e. via contracts, so LRB have projected income in excess of £2.3m over the life of the Futurebuilders arrangement.

The loan element of the funding has necessitated a commitment to contracts which acted as the security for the arrangement. A wide range of contracts had been secured that would guarantee a stable income stream, including
- Social Services
- Primary Care
- Schools
- Rural Bus Challenge
- Mental Health Services
- Care Homes
- Voluntary and Community Groups.
  • In local currency: 1.160.000
  • Local currency name: GBP
  • In Euro [EUR]: 1.302.000
Conclusions (incl. output, analysis of benefits) The outputs of LRB are as follows (based on year 2010-2011):
- 116,000 trips for education & social services.
- 54,000 trips on demand responsive Community Transport.
- 45,000 trips on local bus services.
This gives a total of 215,000 journeys by an individual membership of 1,000 people and 40 volunteers driving for the car scheme.

The benefits and improvements that the project has delivered (compared with before) are an improved connectivity in rural areas, providing door to door access for disabled, elderly and socially disadvantaged persons. Secondary benefits are that a rural transport network has been developed. Access has improved for vulnerable members of communities at risk of rural isolation.

As can be surmised, the liabilities incurred to establish LRB were based on a very strong partnership between the operators and the County Council, and the assumption that a sufficient number of contracts would remain with LRB across at least six years. This cannot evade an element of risk, and the gains in establishing a very dynamic and all-embracing service need to be balanced with this. This approach is probably unique in CT and is very much a forward-thinking approach where the operators and local authority form a different kind of partnership.

However, it is questionable whether Futurebuilders can be seen as a general CT development fund. Following LRB, five subsequent CTs have gained investments, although on a much smaller scale. The concept of ‘soft’ development loans has become more accepted within the voluntary sector in recent years, and other finance bodies are investing in social enterprise initiatives.
Source / Link http://www.littleredbus.co.uk/
Information - documents Little Red Bus - User Handbook (PDF, 12 pages, 771KB (771 KB)
Little Red Bus - Training Services Leaflet (PDF, 2 pages, 449KB (449 KB)
Little Red Bus Website Minibus Graphic (JPEG 57KB) (57 KB)

Little Red Bus Voluntary Car Scheme Photo (JPEG 98KB) (98 KB)

Little Red Bus - Operational Area Map Graphic (JPEG 85KB) (85 KB)

Little Red Bus - Minibus Photo (JPEG 32KB) (32 KB)

Little Red Bus Minibus in Countryside Photo (JPEG 85KB) (84 KB)

Little Red Bus - Timetable Graphic (JPEG 66KB) (65 KB)

Little Red Bus - Partnership Logos Graphic (JPEG 14KB) (26 KB)

Little Red Bus - Service Launch Photo (JPEG 27KB) (27 KB)