Friday, 20 January 2012

Cambridgeshire To Transform Way Subsidised Travel Delivered

Council chiefs are being asked to consider plans to invest £1.5 million into providing targeted community and alternative transport solutions in place of bus subsidies.

Cambridgeshire County Council has reviewed its previous decision to reduce subsidies to bus services, in order to save £2.7 million. This included a thorough public consultation to assess the impact that this reduction may have and therefore help to mitigate the impact.

This money is used to subsidise bus services that are currently not commercially viable.

Following an analysis of the survey results, members of the cabinet will be asked to consider bringing in phased reductions in bus subsidies over the next three years. A thorough assessment of local needs will be made first and alternative local transport measures identified wherever possible.

These proposed solutions would be developed as part of the forward looking Cambridgeshire Future Transport project that aims to develop more targeted, effective and locally needed transport provision. This could include community transport, sharing of transport services with other providers such as the health sector or working with bus operators to make existing subsidised services commercial. The Council will work closely with communities to bring in alternative transport measures to better suit local needs and save money at the same time.

Transport Minister Norman Baker has written to councils backing plans where authorities are using community transport in areas where commercial services are not viable.

Some 81 per cent of respondents to the survey did not support the withdrawal of all bus subsidies as this would have an impact on elderly, women, people with disabilities and the young and this proposed approach will address these concerns.

Nearly 68 per cent of respondents said they were likely or quite likely to use alternative travel links if they were available in their local area.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Steve Criswell, Cabinet member for Community Infrastructure, said: "It is clear that people value their subsidised bus services which is why we paid for them even though commercially they were not viable.

"But with the large savings we, like other authorities, have to make we have to look at whether these bus services can be better provided rather than using large vehicles to carry a relatively small amount of people. That is why we are considering investing £1.5 million into alternative transport solutions and phasing reductions over three years. If agreed we would work closely with communities to make sure alternatives are in place that are tailored for local needs. The Government is encouraging councils to look at community transport solutions to meet the needs of residents where commercial services are not viable. These could be much more responsive for smaller cost. Operators are already talking to us about how changes can be made to make some services commercially viable and where there is no alternative we will consider keeping a subsidised bus.