More cuts to buses on the horizon as council looks to save money

Driver and passengers of the damaged car at the scene


Picture: Debz Croker

Driver hurt in crash in Cosham road

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FURTHER bus routes could face the axe as the county council looks to save millions of pounds by cutting its bus subsidies.

Currently Hampshire County Council pays commercial companies, such as First, to run 200 bus services along lesser used or less profitable routes, such as the 21 that serves Hill Head.

Due to budget cuts from government, the council needs to shave £1.5m off its current £4.7m spend by 2016, putting services at further risk and prompting concern from residents.

Bill Hutchison from Hill Head Residents’ Association said: ‘It is a matter of grave concern. It is the law of unintended consequences.

‘The introduction of the bus pass to help people afford the fare has created an unprofitable bus service.

He added: ‘Some people really need the bus and we will fight for it.’

Executive member for transport Cllr Sean Woodward said a radical shake up in the way people view buses needs to happen.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘Eighty per cent of the bus services in the county are run commercially and do not have any subsidy. These are the profitable routes.

‘The other 20 per cent are deemed to be socially desirable or necessary. But we do have other options such as Dial-a-Ride or Taxishare. There may be other ways that mean people are not cut off without a bus.’

The council has launched a consultation to help it shape its decision, which is due in the summer.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘It is for people to come up with ideas that keep people travelling, we cannot keep doing the same thing we always have at the same level with half of our funding gone.’

Around 30 million bus journeys are made in Hampshire per year, four million are subsidised by the council. In this area the county subsidises the 11, 20, 21, 26, 28. It also subsidises some journeys on the 4A, 28A and F1 and F2.

In addition to this, the council spends £13.4m on concessionary fares — paying the bus company a third of a full-paying fare for each bus pass holder’s journey.

The Rural Services Network warned cuts could have a devastating impact on communities and said that in some areas the cuts have reached critical levels.

Across the country, local authorities are proposing to cut £20m from supported bus services this year — twice the reduction in 2013.

The Rural Services Network has launched a campaign calling for an urgent review into funding for bus services ahead of the government’s budget on March 19.

Rural Services Network chairman Cllr Cecilia Motley said: ‘Buses play a vital role in rural communities.

‘We recognise the need for austerity measures but government cuts are in grave danger of going too far.’

John Birtwistle, projects director for First, said the company was in talks with local authorities.

He said: ‘Bus operators are working with local authorities to minimise the impact of these funding cuts and commend this approach to all local authorities.’

To take part in consultation go to www3.hants.gov.uk/transportconsultation2014 or call 01962 846785.

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