Bus services face heavy County Council cuts

AN ‘IMPACT assessment’ to find out how reductions in bus subsidies will affect passengers is being launched by West Sussex County Council.

The County Council announced in February that it would be reducing the subsidy it gives to bus companies in West Sussex by £2 million, leaving a budget of £2.7 million per year.

Of the 24 million bus journeys made every year in West Sussex, reduction could affect just two million trips.

The savings, which will be phased over a three-year period, are necessary as part of the County Council’s need to reduce its overall spending by £79 million.

The County Council is asking passengers on the selected services to explain how the changes are likely to affect them.

Details of the routes that might be affected from September 2011 will be available online at www.westsussex.gov.uk/buses as well as in local libraries and Help Points.

Sunday and evening services will be most affected but passengers may also see a reduction in the frequency of services on some routes during weekdays. A small number of routes used by school children who are not eligible for free transport are also included in the proposals.

Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council Deputy Leader with responsibility for Highways and Transport, said: “We very much regret having to reduce these subsidies but I must stress that although the County Council is withdrawing some subsidies it may not mean an end to the service.

“We are working with the bus companies to look at all possible alternatives. In some cases it might be possible for services to continue running with a fare increase, or a reduced number of buses if the bus operators find a way to absorb the cost themselves.

“We are also keen to work with local residents and community transport schemes to look at alternative ways for people to make their journeys.”

Recommendations on which subsidies to reduce have been made by a specially formed cross-party group of councillors.

The impact assessment closes on Friday June 10 with the first phase of reductions taking effect from September 1, 2011.

As well as information on the County Council website, people can call 01243 642105, email buses@westsussex.gov.uk or write to: Buses, Have Your Say, FREEPOST RSBK-CHTU-KGGG, West Sussex County Council, Chichester, PO19 1RQ.