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11.12.13

Bus service cuts ‘at critical levels’ – Campaign for Better Transport

Nearly half of all local authorities have reduced support for buses in 2013, a new report from the Campaign for Better Transport indicates.

There are plans for cuts of £48m in the coming years and three councils no longer support any bus services. The Campaign for Better Transport has warned that we need increased political attention to buses.

The report calls for new agreed minimum standards of access by public transport to facilities such as hospitals, colleges and areas of employment, as well as a new approach to funding. Government departments such as DfE, DWP and the DH should all contribute to ringfenced and pooled funding for buses, and long-term investment must be planned to maintain services.

Martin Abrams, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said: “Cuts to bus services are now reaching critical levels. We have seen services lost year on year and with further deep cuts planned next year, some authorities may stop supporting buses altogether. This is a watershed moment. If Government doesn’t take action to help support buses we will see whole networks disappear.

“But cuts often have a profound effect on vulnerable groups. Losing a bus service can stop young people from getting to education or training and cut older people's lifeline to the outside world. Improving the way we support buses is essential if we want to keep people connected.”

Cllr Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “Many councils simply can’t afford to subsidise bus companies to operate unprofitable routes at the levels they once did. Where bus companies stop running services councils will look at other ways of helping people who used them such as supporting community transport schemes and coordinating with local health service fleets.

“We have long told government the current funding system needs to be reformed so we can get the most out of our diminishing resources. Rather than Whitehall handing over money to bus companies with no strings attached, councils and passengers should be put in charge of commissioning services. Bus companies can then be made to compete for funding at a local level with the people who use them having a greater say over which services are provided in return.”

pteg support unit director Jonathan Bray said: “This report shows that PTEs have a better overall record of protecting their local bus services than rural counties and urban districts elsewhere. This despite our areas seeing bigger cuts in CLG funding than rural areas. However, as the cuts worsen protecting lifeline social bus services will become more difficult even for pro-bus local transport authorities like the PTEs.

 “Despite the London-based media's obsession with trains, cars and planes it's buses that dominate public transport provision outside the capital. They are key to getting the workless into work, young people to education and training, and patients to medical appointments. Cutting off communities through a Beeching on the buses means more worklessness, a less-skilled workforce, and higher costs for the NHS costing Government far more than it saves in the long run. Either the CLG eases off on the cutbacks or we need a dedicated funding stream for local government on buses. If not there's a bleak future ahead for Britain's main form of public transport and the low income households that rely on it.”

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