Bus routes are under threat in county review

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BUS users have been warned to speak out or risk losing vital bus services.

Hampshire County Council has announced it is reviewing the services it subsidises, after losing £2.7m of its £8.8m bus budget.

The council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds ensuring services – particularly those running in evenings or on Sundays – operate in the remotest parts of our area.

But it has confirmed it will consult the public over their future, and some could be cut.

Councillor Mel Kendal, the council’s leader for the environment, said: ‘All supported routes will be looked at with routes and frequency measured against cost per passenger and alternatives. It would be naive to think there will not be changes.’

The council pays companies to run 31 routes in our area which bus firms believe are not used by enough people to be financially viable otherwise.

But Fareham Borough Councillor Peter Davies, a member of Bus Users UK, believes they are vital.

He said: ‘People rely on them. I use them, and in my ward, 53 per cent of residents don’t have cars. We can’t tell them they can’t travel anywhere as a result.

‘These services are used by people who have no other way to travel. Not only that, we can’t keep building roads in south Hampshire, so we must make the most of what we have. Buses carry 20-40 people per vehicle, compared to five for a car. Environmentally and for reasons of space and cost, we have to look to buses.’ Cllr Kendal believes some services could be taken over by community groups, carrying passengers in minibuses.

Cllr Davies said: ‘That shouldn’t be ruled out, because we have to keep providing these services. But a big problem is the two main bus companies have effectively carved up the UK between them, so in most cases there’s only one bidder every time a service is offered for tender. The county should follow Kent, and set up its own company, that way driving down costs and enabling the same services to operate at a lower price. But in the short-term, there are only two things people can do. use the services, and make sure they speak out now. Otherwise, they will disappear.’

To give your views on services in your area, e-mail: environment.bus.review@hants.gov.uk, or call 01962 846921.