Threatened bus routes to be saved in £1.1m rescue plan

A WAVE of threatened bus routes across Worcestershire are going to be saved - as council chiefs performed a significant u-turn on slashing an entire £3 million subsidy today.

After an unprecedented 8,500 responses over proposals to axe the subsidy to 97 buses, including 20 in Wyre Forest, Worcestershire County Council has found £1.1 million to plug some of the gap.

The surprise move, which comes after weeks of pressure from campaigners, will see the routes deemed to be the most "essential" for people getting to work, school and the hospitals saved from the axe.

The £1.1 million, which is a provisional amount and could yet go up, will be made available from September, when the bus cuts will start.

Talks with operators will go into a new phase from now until the summer, with the council's Conservative leadership saying it wants the extra cash to fund the most important routes.

While it will not save all the routes, the cash will go a long way to securing the future of some services people have voiced most concern about.

The funding announcement was made during a cabinet meeting today, where public speakers turned up once again to plead for help.

Les Roberts, an Upton resident, said: "Every single bus service in Upton is a subsidised route.

"It you go ahead and remove the subsidy it is very likely Upton will have no bus services at all, which will be disastrous for the town.

"Residents fear very greatly for the future if this intent is carried through.

"Car ownership is far from universal, it will be a disaster."

Student Luke Bessant, 17, of Norton, who attends Pershore High School, said: "Taking away buses would limit the choice of school for many students like myself.

"Due to the infrequency of buses at the moment, many students get parents to drive them to school - surely reducing buses would only make this worse."

Operators will be expected to save some routes on their own by altering service frequencies or putting up prices.

But hopes are high that the £1.1 million will go some way to helping the situation.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said the consultation response was "staggering".

He said: "It will take a considerable amount of time to analyse the reponses but we are determined to end up with a sustainable, fair bus network. We have listened to what people have said."

Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "We're aware of the need for people to get to work, hospitals, schools, and we'll do all we can to meet the need for that.

"Each route needs to be looked at, and every response."

The £3 million public transport subsidy funds Worcester's two park and rides, and swathes of evening and weekend services, as well as scores of urban routes.

It makes up 20 per cent of the total bus network in Worcestershire.

A report is due out in May or June about which routes will be saved.

Comments (4)

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5:27pm Thu 6 Feb 14

DOEPUBLIC says...

Good news, in part, by why dos consultation only have to take place after protest.? Suddenly a pot of money appears. Where is the accountability.
The aspiration of 'we are determined to end up with a sustainable, fair bus network' should have been the original objective. The social return on investments should take centre stage, safeguarding futures. Yearly 'russian roulette with community assets merely highlights the gamble politicians make with real people's lives.
Good news, in part, by why dos consultation only have to take place after protest.? Suddenly a pot of money appears. Where is the accountability. The aspiration of 'we are determined to end up with a sustainable, fair bus network' should have been the original objective. The social return on investments should take centre stage, safeguarding futures. Yearly 'russian roulette with community assets merely highlights the gamble politicians make with real people's lives. DOEPUBLIC
  • Score: 5

8:31pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Stephen Brown says...

£1.1 million versus £3 million still represents a 64% cut. Worcs County Council bus cuts will still amount to the biggest supported bus services cut in the UK. The second largest being 50%, one of 3 other councils above 40%, against an average of 25% cut elsewhere. It seems the message is we should be grateful for this politically manipulated u-turn. Had they done their homework in the first place, or dare I suggest actually cared, it would have come as no surprise there would be such a backlash against these cuts, especially bearing in mind that the Midlands already has one of the lowest spend per head of population on supported bus services.

Consider this, at the same time they proposed the £3million bus cut and now suggest this 'u-turn' it is against an annually rising budget for highways, and yet they also propose another highways budget increase of £1million. This should tell you where their priorities lie, and it is not in fulfilling their duty to the vulnerable or potentially isolated communities.

They talk about austerity to justify cuts but at the same time commit to spend an extra £7 million a year if you include the incinerator at £6million a year. Something stinks at county hall. So forgive me if I don't jump up and down with joy just yet because I fear the final decisions about saving 'essential' routes will be more about limiting the damage to the tory vote rather than actually what's fair or 'essential' for communities.
£1.1 million versus £3 million still represents a 64% cut. Worcs County Council bus cuts will still amount to the biggest supported bus services cut in the UK. The second largest being 50%, one of 3 other councils above 40%, against an average of 25% cut elsewhere. It seems the message is we should be grateful for this politically manipulated u-turn. Had they done their homework in the first place, or dare I suggest actually cared, it would have come as no surprise there would be such a backlash against these cuts, especially bearing in mind that the Midlands already has one of the lowest spend per head of population on supported bus services. Consider this, at the same time they proposed the £3million bus cut and now suggest this 'u-turn' it is against an annually rising budget for highways, and yet they also propose another highways budget increase of £1million. This should tell you where their priorities lie, and it is not in fulfilling their duty to the vulnerable or potentially isolated communities. They talk about austerity to justify cuts but at the same time commit to spend an extra £7 million a year if you include the incinerator at £6million a year. Something stinks at county hall. So forgive me if I don't jump up and down with joy just yet because I fear the final decisions about saving 'essential' routes will be more about limiting the damage to the tory vote rather than actually what's fair or 'essential' for communities. Stephen Brown
  • Score: 1

9:28pm Sun 9 Feb 14

DOEPUBLIC says...

Thanks for the further context Stephen. Information that seems to have passed the other parties by. Well done for your petition. It would appear some are more interested in where the buck stops, than the bus. Sustaining the performance figures and balance sheets, prior to the poll booth herding.
Thanks for the further context Stephen. Information that seems to have passed the other parties by. Well done for your petition. It would appear some are more interested in where the buck stops, than the bus. Sustaining the performance figures and balance sheets, prior to the poll booth herding. DOEPUBLIC
  • Score: 1

12:34am Tue 11 Feb 14

scholesy76 says...

There is no due process being followed by the councils here. Before proposing a complete abolition of all subsidised services, why did they not evaluate the passenger data on the routes in the first instance? That would have given them a good steer on passenger need and viability. They have now consulted (absolutely everyone - so not necessarily regular users of the bus) and funnily enough have managed to attract massive objection across the board and rightly so. Back to square one and I share the view that the final decisions are likely to be about political whims than social and economic need.
There is no due process being followed by the councils here. Before proposing a complete abolition of all subsidised services, why did they not evaluate the passenger data on the routes in the first instance? That would have given them a good steer on passenger need and viability. They have now consulted (absolutely everyone - so not necessarily regular users of the bus) and funnily enough have managed to attract massive objection across the board and rightly so. Back to square one and I share the view that the final decisions are likely to be about political whims than social and economic need. scholesy76
  • Score: 2

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