Friday, 24 February 2012

Tory Cuts To Rural Bus Funding Set To Go Ahead



Cllr Kilian Bourke
(LD, Romsey)

Conservative-led Cambridgeshire County Council plans to push ahead with its elimination of all bus subsidies despite substantial public opposition.  Newly published cabinet papers reveal that the second tranche of cuts will take place in September 2012.

This follows a consultation in which only 3% of bus users said they would approve of the cuts to bus services.  37% said they would have no other means of transport.  The cuts will affect mainly vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled.

Despite Conservative claims that these buses are empty and "ferry air", two million passenger jouneys take place on subsidized buses every year.

The Conservatives are claiming that it costs the council £12 per passenger journey on one route but this is the most extreme example they can find and grossly unrepresentative. In reality it costs roughly £2.7M to provide 2 million passenger journeys around the County, equating to a subsidy of about £1.35 per journey on routes that are often socially necessary. Meanwhile the Conservatives' much-vaunted Duxford pilot has delivered a grand total of two passenger journeys at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer, one of the most inefficient instances of public transport subsidy since the moon landing.

Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson Susan van de Ven said, “These socially necessary buses allow the most vulnerable in our society to access the outside world. Young people rely on them to access employment centres and elderly people to get to hospital or the neighbouring market town.  Now the administration is cutting every last one of them.  This is a big mistake and will mark the beginning of a new era of rural isolation for thousands of people.”

“The administration has not demonstrated that it has an adequate plan to replace these buses, never mind deliver the improvement it has promised.  After more than one year Cambridgeshire Future Transport has produced nothing better than the disastrous pilot in Duxford, which has carried a total of one passenger.”

“I will be taking to the streets with my petition against the bus cuts, which people can also sign on line."

The petition is available here: http://epetition.cambridgeshire.public-i.tv/epetition_core/view/Buses or here: http://tinyurl.com/789ggnj

Lib Dem Leader Cllr Kilian Bourke added, “The Tories claim to be growing the economy for all, but without a basic level of public transport it will be an economy for the Haves, not the Have Nots.  It is a Tory dogma that the model of bus subsidies is "withering on the vine"; I fear that it will be those people and communities left without public transport who are left to "wither on the vine".

Liberal Democrat alternative budget proposals included a public transport package which would have provided equitable access to public transport across Cambridgeshire, including the protecting of funding for subsidised buses as well as an extra £1.5M per annum to improve it, extra investment in community transport, transport interchanges for rural areas, free transport for young people seeking education, employment and training, and extra funding for concessionary fares.

These proposals were rejected by the Tory administration.