Bus cut plans are condemned

Lewes bus services under threat. SUS-140626-085229001
Lewes bus services under threat. SUS-140626-085229001

There has been a furious reaction to plans to “decimate” bus travel across the county.

Sweeping changes to services supported by East Sussex County Council will be discussed by cabinet on Tuesday, July 1.

Lewes MP Norman Baker has heavily criticised the county council over the level of proposed cuts announced this week. He said that in a bid to save £1.79 million, the county council will be staging a consultation of proposed cuts and alterations to bus services which will see hundreds of people affected.

Routes included in the consultation cover some of the rural services in the MP’s constituency area, proposing reductions from every two hours to a twice weekly service, such as Barcombe – Lewes – Alfriston and the 824 Village Rider service for off peak periods. Some Lewes local bus routes would see services reduced from a half hourly service to hourly, to include Winterbourne to Lewes Town.

Seaford is facing losing its Sunday service to Eastbourne and reducing the daily hourly service to two days a week. People seeking to travel in the evening between Tunbridge Wells and Brighton Monday to Saturday, which includes Ringmer and the Malling area of Lewes, could also lose their service.

Mr Baker said Newhaven residents, braced to lose their last bank and being advised to travel to nearby branches, face having their journey plans scuppered as cuts are proposed to the Lewes to Newhaven service, covering much of the Ouse Valley, from an hourly service to a two-hourly off peak service.

Mr Baker said: “I am astounded at these significant proposed cuts to local bus services.

“This will not only greatly affect how people choose to travel, at a time when we are all being encouraged to use public transport, but for many this is their only link to important services such as medical appointments, education, essential shopping and work.

“Residents of local villages are particularly at risk from becoming completely isolated without access to public transport. These types of cuts are not just an inconvenience but will greatly affect people’s day to day living. I can appreciate the difficult financial challenge, but it is difficult to accept with millions being invested into the Hastings to Bexhill bypass. I would encourage East Sussex County Council to listen very carefully to local residents during this consultation and consider the wider impact on people’s lives.”

Local sustainable travel expert Chris Smith said: “The cabinet is likely to rubber stamp a proposal that would start the decimation of subsidised bus services in Lewes and East Sussex. The 28 and 29 run by Brighton will not be affected, but almost every other bus service running into Lewes will be cut.”

He continued: “Fares on remaining services will face a huge hike, making them unaffordable for many. Increases will approach 30 per cent across the board. This will lead to even less use of what buses remain.”

Mr Smith added: “Areas like Chailey, Newick, Laughton and Kingston will become no-go areas where it is impossible to live without a car, or more than one car. And, of course, the number of cars trying to drive and park in Lewes will rise.”