By Ian Dipple Friday 14 September 2012 Updated: 14/09 10:09
SOARING petrol prices and rising train and bus fares are leaving thousands of people across Redditch at risk of slipping into transport poverty.
Close to 68,000 residents are in danger of being cut off from the world of work and access to healthcare according to research by transport charity Sustrans.
The group warns with the cost of running a car becoming increasingly unaffordable, a long-term plan is needed to invest in bus services and provide more cycle and walking routes as an alternative.
While a 3p rise in petrol tax was delayed by the Government in August, prices at the pumps have begun to rise again, with unleaded nudging the 140p a litre mark.
A number of bus services have been cut across Redditch or routes altered as a result of Worcestershire County Council's decision to slash subsidies or commercial decisions by bus companies struggling with falling passenger numbers and rising fuel costs.
Network Rail is upgrading the track between Redditch and Alvechurch which by the middle of this decade will result in three trains an hour to Birmingham but fares are set to rocket by 6.2 per cent in January.
The county council has received £2.8million from the Government through the Choose How You Move project, which will promote alternative modes of travel in Redditch as well as put in extra walking and cycling routes over a three year period.
Coun John Smith OBE, responsible for highways and transport on the county council, said the introduction of a new multi-operator ticket scheme in the new year - allowing passengers to use any service run by any company for a fixed price - would make bus travel easier and cheaper.
He added working with local groups to run Community Transport Schemes, such as the Redditch Hopper around Webheath, was helping to fill the gap where services had been cut.
"There's no escaping reductions in funding from Central Government have brought challenges but when we have addressed these, particularly during last year's subsidy review, we've listened to the views of local people and considered a number of factors, including access to alternative forms of transport other than the car, to ensure we are using every penny we have got in the best possible way."
Redditch MP Karen Lumley has called for an investigation into why fuel costs more in cities than towns like Redditch but pointed out investment was being made through the Choose How You Move project and the new railway station at nearby Bromsgrove.
"I accept train travel is expensive and we do need to do look at pricing as well as address transport issues. It's something the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) should be looking at as well. We are constantly talking about bringing jobs to Redditch and that's no good if people can't access those."
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