Warning over rural bus-service cuts

An Arriva bus in Amble.
An Arriva bus in Amble.

Further cuts to vital bus services threaten to have a devastating impact on England’s rural communities, the Rural Services Network has warned.

Bus services are being hit especially hard by local-authority budget savings as a consequence of the massive ongoing cuts imposed by the Government and in some areas the cuts have reached critical levels, says the Network.

Local authorities are proposing to cut more than £20million in spending on supported bus services this year – twice the reduction in 2013, according to statistics from the Campaign for Better Transport.

It comes as Northumberland County Council has launched a consultation on a number of its subsidised services to run from April next year, in the face of a 13 per cent reduction in the budget available to support local buses in 2014/15.

A Save Our Buses campaign backed by the Network and other organisations is calling for an urgent review into funding for bus services ahead of the Government’s Budget next Wednesday.

Rural Services Network chairman, Coun Cecilia Motley, said: “Buses play a vital role in rural communities – especially for local residents who do not have a car or other available transport.

“The historic unfair funding of rural councils by government means that the impact of the recent and future budget cuts on rural councils is felt far greater than in other areas as services started from a lower starting point. We recognise the need for austerity measures, but government cuts are in grave danger of going too far – leaving many rural local authorities with no choice but to reduce funding for bus services.”

“Rather than imposing draconian and short-sighted cuts, the Government should be investing in the bus sector for the long term. The impact of any cutbacks is likely to be greatest in shire counties and there is likely to be a significant adverse impact on the operation of services in rural areas. Once bus route are lost they are often gone forever. It can be very difficult – sometimes impossible – to restore routes in the future even if finances improve.”