If enough people speak out, councils may have to think again on bus cuts

There is still hope out there; if enough people make enough noise about buses, councils might just have to start to listen, writes Alice Ridley of the Campaign for Better Transport.

By Alice Ridley of the Campaign for Better Transport

The Campaign for Better Transport launched its ‘Save Our Buses’ campaign this week in response to unprecedented cuts to council transport spending, which will leave many parts of the country without any form of public transport. The government said that spending cuts would be socially fair, but cuts to bus services will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest.

Bus cuts are a false economy as any short-term savings will be outweighed by the long-term cost of a vastly depleted bus network. We believe bus cuts on this scale will actually hold back the economy, obstruct the delivery of other public services, reduce employment opportunities and magnify social problems.

Figures revealed by Save Our Buses show that 70 per cent of local authorities plan major cuts to their bus budgets, with some councils planning to cut all their supported bus services and 13 councils cutting support by more than £1m each. We collected data from every local authority in England to produce an interactive map showing bus cuts across the county. The map is part of a crowd sourcing project and we’re encouraging people to add the local cuts they know about to give a UK-wide picture.

Buses are vital to the economy and account for two-thirds of public transport journeys. A report we carried out for the RMT called Buses Matter showed that local bus networks provide a vital public service all over the country, linking people to amenities, shops, friends and family.

One group who will be particularly affected by cuts are those looking for work or to get training to help them find a job. Two-thirds of job seekers don’t have access to a car and will be cut off from any improvement in the economy if they no longer have a bus service – yet buses are now under threat on three fronts.

Cuts to local authority budgets, coupled with a reduction in the fuel subsidy bus operators receive and changes to the way central government reimburses operators for concessionary fares, have all created a perfect storm which threatens to sink the local bus network. Of course, these are challenging times for public services across the board, but politicians must consider the social, economic and environmental consequences of failing to protect our bus services.

The majority of councils are still deciding exactly where the axe will fall and there are some out there who are listening to local bus users and trying to find ways to minimise the negative impacts of cuts, rather than arbitrarily slashing services. So there is still hope out there; if enough people make enough noise about buses, councils might just have to start to listen.

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