Rural bus reviews 'likely' to result in cuts says Leicestershire County Council
Leicestershire County Council says a transport review is ‘likely’ to result in cuts to some rural bus services.
On Friday (February 10) the council’s cabinet agreed on a motion to review its supported transport services, and changes would ‘likely include the withdrawal of some services’.
The services in question have been subsidised by the council because they have not traditionally been used by enough passengers for an operator to make money. But the council has been left with an £88 million hole in its budget and says it needs to make £1m worth of savings on bus services alone.
Up to 26 bus routes across Leicestershire are in the firing line and the first could be cut in August. The four Harborough services include:
- Service 30 between Market Harborough and Southern Estate
-Service 33, the Market Harborough town service
- Service 44 between Fleckney, Market Harborough and Foxton
- Service 58 between Lutterworth and Market Harborough.
There are three potential outcomes to the review including: keeping services as they are, an element of change such as frequency and routing to reduce cost, or the withdrawal of the service. In this event, if no alternative transport is available, a demand responsive transport service would be implemented to take residents to their nearest centre with essential services – namely medical and food shopping. However, a summary of the council’s decision says the review is ‘likely to result in changes to these services, including the likely withdrawal of some of them’.
Ozzy O’Shea, county council cabinet member for highways and transport, said the costs of the subsidised services costs range from £40,000 to more than £200,000 a year per service, with average passenger subsidies of between £8 and £22 per journey.
He added: "It is not sustainable at the present growth we have. What we do see is low passenger numbers - they’re not high at all. We’ve lost passengers to pre covid numbers. You see buses going around locally and there's very few people on them. If only people would use the buses, services would be more sustainable and we need passenger numbers to rise.
“I want to implore our MPs in Leicestershire to look at this. It’s affecting their residents. They need to get a grip. They need to look at finances they give to this county council, the government they serve, the people of Leicestershire they serve. We need at Leicestershire County Council fair funding. We’ve been asking for years of all political persuasions of government, it’s time to bite the bullet and fund Leicestershire so we can properly serve our residents.”
While there will not be a wider public consultation, communities will be engaged with over changes and options available depending on the review’s outcome.
Centrebus, the operator of the four Harborough routes in the firing line, recently hit out at the proposals. It said it was not given the opportunity to put forward ideas to relieve financial pressure while avoiding cuts which would leave ‘vulnerable people isolated’.
In response, Cllr O’Shea confirmed the council would be talking to operators and welcome their views on making savings while maintaining as many services as possible.