Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bus funding cuts causing ‘crisis’, say campaigners . . .


Bus funding cuts causing ‘crisis’, say campaigners

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Local funding for bus services has been cut in half of authorities in the current financial year, a report by the Campaign for Better Transport group has found.

Analysing funding across 110 local transport authorities in England and Wales following Freedom of Information requests, CBT warned these cuts were leading to a crisis in bus provision.

Today’s analysis found that council support – which is used to subsidise routes that commercial bus firms would not otherwise operate – had fallen by £9m in 2014/15. Since 2010, local authority funding for bus service has been reduced by a total of £44m, or 15%, with more than 2,000 routes being reduced or withdrawn entirely.

Publishing the update, Martin Abrams, a public transport campaigner at CBT, said bus services were being lost at an alarming rate. 
‘Year-on-year cuts to budgets mean entire networks have now disappeared, leaving many communities with little public transport and in some cases none at all,’ he said.

The Buses in crisis report also revealed that 22 town halls in England cut over 10% from their bus funding in 2014/15, and that seven authorities now spending nothing on supported bus services. These were Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington, Stoke-on-Trent, Luton, Southend-on-Sea, and Wrexham, according to CBT figures.

Abrams said budget cuts planned in the next parliament meant these ‘very worrying’ cuts could continue in future years. 

‘The government must wake up to the crisis facing buses and urgently introduce new initiatives which recognise the vital social, economic and environmental role buses play,’ he said.

‘The challenge for this and future governments is to secure investment in buses and ensure rescue efforts won't be too little too late.’

Among its recommendations, CBT called on the government to fully fund the national concessionary travel scheme for elderly people to relieve some of the pressure on local authorities.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said that the government had provided substantial funding to bus operators to help more services run and keep ticket prices down. 

‘A further £1bn a year is provided for the free national bus pass,’ he added. ‘Decisions about bus services are best made locally in partnership between councils and the companies which run the buses.’

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