People pressure reduces bus cuts

Bus campaigners
Bus campaigners

Although campaigners fear proposed cuts to bus services will be worse than claimed, East Sussex County Council this week confirms 90 out of 101 subsided services will continue to run.

A 12-week consultation on proposed cuts - necessary the council says to save taxpayers £1.8m - attracted 3,605 responses including 13 petitions. There were also discussions with bus operators and other interested groups.

At its meeting on Tuesday (December 16) the council’s cabinet will consider network changes. But plans include changes to the original proposals in response to public concerns. Operators have agreed to run 23 services as commercial routes.

Under revised proposals, supported Dial-a-Ride services will continue to be funded to provide at least a three-day-a-week service and school services to Heathfield, Ringmer and Uplands Colleges will now continue to operate.

If proposed revisions are agreed, around 91 per cent of passengers will be unaffected and 95 per cent will still have a six-day-a-week service. Off-peak services will continue to run but with a reduced frequency.

Rupert Clubb, county council transport director said: “The consultation allowed us to hear first-hand how any changes to the supported bus network would impact on those who rely on services. It has given us and bus operators the opportunity to reassess passenger numbers and several operators believe parts of some services can run commercially. We welcome their decision, as this takes some of the burden off the council and taxpayer.”

Proposed changes would reduce the average cost of subsidised journeys to the council from 81p per passenger to 59p - a reduction of 28 per cent. Cabinet will also consider increasing adult and child fares across the supported network with daily fares increasing by up to 30 per cent.

This has drawn strong criticism from campaigners. They point out that almost two million trips are on services subject to what they call ‘significent’ cuts.

Chris Smith, from Love Your Bus, said: “Denton residents must wait nearly two hours for a bus home after shopping in Newhaven or people living on the Landport estate in Lewes will see their service cut from half hourly to hourly.” Another service which looks subject to cuts is the 318 12.08 from Heathfield to Hurst Green via Broad Oak, Burwash and Etchingham. Cuts will remove this service on three weekdays leaving just a Tuesday and Thursday trip.