‘People power’ forces re-think on bus routes

By Ian Dipple Friday 14 February 2014 Updated: 14/02 11:40

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Buy photos » Concessionary bus travel before 9.30am has been cut by Worcestershire County Council.

COUNCIL bosses have u-turned on plans to completely remove funding for bus services following a wave of protest.

Worcestershire County Council has signalled its intention to continue to subsidise some services with £1.1million being made available to support the move.

In November last year the council announced it would be cutting the £3million it currently spends on bus subsidy, leaving almost 100 services in Redditch at risk of the axe as part of efforts to save more than £100million up until 2017.

But the plan met with huge opposition with more than 8,500 people responding to a public consultation on the proposal.

Concerns raised included the fact it could leave people unable to get to shops, work or school with the future of some even being put at risk. There were also fears it would lead to an increase in social isolation and make it difficult for people to get to GP or hospital appointments. There were also warnings it could lead to fewer local bus operators, reducing competition and driving up prices.

As a result all subsidised services will now be reviewed to establish which ones are deemed key to ensure access to schools, jobs, healthcare and shops.

Talks will also be held with bus companies to see which can be run commercially, potentially with a rise in fares, which would be unsustainable if subsidy was substantially reduced and what role there is for community and voluntary transport.

Coun John Smith OBE, responsible for highways on the county council, said: “We’ve consistently said due to the financial challenges there’s no easy answers when it comes tough issues like this but, importantly, we stressed the public’s views would be taken into account, which is what is happening.”

Council leader Adrian Hardman added: “It was entirely correct to have a zero base budget review of our bus subsidy and we still have a lot of work to do in that area because we need to analyse what the public said in droves and come up with a sustainable position to which services we subsidise and which bus operators can use to run in a commercial way.”

Coun Joe Baker, who represents Arrow Valley East, said he hoped the decision would lead to the under threat 61 service, which he campaigned to save with Winyates Green residents, being protected.

“They hadn’t thought this through, they hadn’t put a back up plan in place and it’s the power of the people, they are shouting louder than they thought they would shout,” he said.

“People in Worcestershire were never going to sit down and just take it and they shouldn’t because it affects them.”

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