Oxfordshire cuts will see almost half of subsidised services disappear

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Almost half of Oxfordshire’s subsidised bus routes could be scrapped following the end of council funding.

The BBC reported that 49 services are due to stop on July 20. 56 will continue, many with amended timetables or routes, which will be run commercially by bus operators.

The council said ending the funding to routes that are not commercially viable would save £3.7m, though campaigners said more routes could close if they make losses when running without subsidies.

The authority announced in November 2015 that it would withdraw bus subsidies following a reduction in its budget from central government. The affected services represent 9% of the county’s bus services.

Council leader Ian Hudsmith said it was positive news that half the services would remain in some form. He said the authority was investigating making council-owned minibuses available as an ‘affordable, flexible door-to-door transport service.’

Following Oxfordshire County Council’s decision, Stagecoach announced it had reached an agreement with the Council to enable some services to continue.

The operator named a number of services it will run which offer alternatives to some of the passengers directly affected by the cuts.

In the city of Oxford, this includes the 3A City Centre – Oxford Science Park/Kassam Stadium, where there will be a new service 3A serving Littlemore and the Oxford Science Park, operated jointly by Stagecoach and Oxford Bus Company. The 14 will utilise a revised timetable to include later evening journeys to the hospital, replacing part of service 17A.

In Oxfordshire county, the 53 from Oxford to Chipping Norton and the 488 from Banbury to Chipping Norton will both continue to run to the current timetable.
In West Oxfordshire, the 11 from Witney to Oxford will continue to run to the current timetable, while the 15 (Witney – Abingdon) will replace service X15 with some changes to the route and timetable. The 19 (Witney – Carterton) will use a revised route and timetable to also incorporate parts of the current 18 service, and the 233 (Woodstock-Burford) will be extended to Carterton and rerouted via Minster Lovell.

In Banbury, the B2 (Town Centre – Bodicote) and B10 (Town Centre – Hanwell Fields) both continue with minor timetable changes to improve punctuality.

Martin Sutton, Managing Director at Stagecoach in Oxfordshire said: “Following the disappointing news that the Oxfordshire County Council was ending its contracts for non-commercial bus services in Oxfordshire, we wanted to do everything we could to support our passengers, and avoid their day-to-day lives being affected.

“We are pleased that, following discussion with Oxfordshire County Council and extensive consultation with stakeholders, passengers and local representatives, we are able to offer services on 10 routes. We regret, however, that we are unable to provide alternatives on other contracted routes where income from fare-paying passengers is too low to meet running costs.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said:  “We would all prefer not to be making any cuts at all but Oxfordshire County Council has been working closely with Stagecoach to progress measures to minimise the impact on local communities.

“We welcome the news that Stagecoach has decided to continue running a number of services commercially, without a subsidy. I’d encourage people to use those routes regularly. It’s clear that the best way to keep a bus service is to use it – ‘use it or lose it’.”

Bus Users Oxford Spokesman, Hugh Jaegar, said: “If you are on a route that is revised to run without a subsidy, for pity’s sake use that bus or it will vanish.

“Transition funding from the government should be used as a safety net for routes attempting to continue without a subsidy.

“If there is no-one there to catch them, those important services will fail if they do not turn a profit.”