Bus cuts worry councillors

COUNCILLORS have expressed their worry over slashes to Cambridgeshire’s bus services, with a 100 per cent cut of subsidies to routes to come in over the next four years.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s (CCC) forthcoming budget, which was passed at a meeting on February 15, agreed for all 57 of the county’s routes to have their council funding taken away, with some routes getting the axe straight away.

The 139 service, which serves Sawston, Foxton and Royston will have its subsidy cut from April 17, leading to operator Stagecoach cancelling the service.

It is among 22 services that have been cut by the operator throughout Cambridgeshire, after CCC made plans to save a predicted �160.6m.

Cambridgeshire county councillor Susan van de Ven said that the cuts are going to take away a public service.

“The council have said these are not commercially viable but they are a definite need and are the only way for so many people to get around,” she said.

“The buses are so significant because they serve elderly people. The 139 service only costs �4,407 a year to run and will deny so many the chance of getting around.

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Cllr van de Ven also said she was worried about the number 31 service between Barley, Chishill, Heydon, Fowlmere and Cambridge, which is frequently used by college students, and the 128 service between Royston, Bassingbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Melbourn.

“It makes no sense to cut this bus subsidy,” she said. “I asked the two lead councillors at the County Council how they plan to help students get to college after the bus goes. They did say that maybe the bus operator will still run the bus without the subsidy.

“This would be nice but we’ll have to wait and see. Unfortunately we know that most of the 57 buses under threat are simply not viable without the subsidy.”

Cllr Killian Bourke, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said that communities will be at risk of isolation.

“These plans will create whole communities where, unless you are able to and can afford to drive, you will be isolated,” he said.

“The poorest, the elderly, those with disabilities, and rural people will be worst hit. The argument that the tiny investment in community transport will somehow fix things is laughable. The mitigating effect will be miniscule.”

Tim Stone, another Cambridgeshire county councillor, said the bus cuts are not the best way to make savings.

“Yes, we do need to save money and yes, bus subsidies may not be the best way to move people about efficiently, but this slash and burn is no way to go about things,” he said.

CCC has asked for views from the public on bus services by writing to local councils.

Email bus.tenders@cambridgeshire.gov.uk, call 0345 045 0675 or write to Cambridgeshire County Council, CC 1301, Castle Court, Shire Hall, Cambridge CB3 0AP to register your views.

Cllr Mac McGuire, CCC cabinet member for highways and access, said: “It is always difficult to make the decision to cut a service, but with limited funding from Government it is a decision we have had to make.”