Chancellor warned of dire impact of bus cuts

Steve Hurst of Spirit Buses in Rothbury.
Steve Hurst of Spirit Buses in Rothbury.

Further cuts to public transport services would decimate Britain’s rural communities, the Government has been warned ahead of this week’s Budget.

The Rural Services Network is making the strongest possible representations against any cuts to the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), which helps fund local bus services. There is a strong belief among the Network’s bus industry members that the BSOG could be reduced or abolished as a result of the Budget on Wednesday.

Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: “Any such move would further decimate rural public transport resulting in dire consequences for rural communities. Abolishing the grant would be devastating for the wider rural economy. Even a reduction – especially following the 20 per cent cut in 2012 – would have serious consequences, but eliminating BSOG altogether would be disastrous.”

Mr Biggs, who has outlined his concerns in a letter to Chancellor George Osborne, said the BSOG helped bus companies keep fares lower for rural passengers as well as maintaining links for local communities.

He said: “Removal of the BSOG would potentially be the final straw as far as many commercial local bus services are concerned. With local government spending cuts, there would be no safety net available for local authorities to pick up the pieces and tender for the provision of these services with subsidy.”

Without the BSOG, rural bus operators big and small faced making a loss and the prospect of being driven out of business, warned Mr Biggs. At least 97 bus operating companies are earning a return below a level which would be seen as acceptable by their economic regulator, and below the cost of capital.

Mr Biggs said: “The effect of any further reduction in BSOG is obvious. The withdrawal of BSOG entirely would certainly have disastrous consequences.”