With potential funding shortfalls in the near future, some councils are considering whether to continue providing bus subsidies at all.
Worcestershire County Council is consulting on potentially withdrawing its entire subsidised local bus budget of £3m.
The council needs to save £30m a year and has adopted a ‘proactive approach so that a considered plan can be drawn up of how to address this challenge.’
Worcestershire currently supports the provision of local bus services by financially subsidising routes which are not provided on a commercial basis by private operators. However, a proportion of the savings would need to be reinvested if a local bus is still required to transport entitled scholars to school. Alternatively, additional dedicated school transport contracts would have to be provided to meet the need for these scholars.
The £3m per annum supports 97 services and three million passenger journeys per annum.
The consultation aims to confirm the proposed reduction of £3m in relation to other service areas, identify passenger travel information (what services, frequency, purpose etc.) to determine what the passenger transport requirements for the county are, identify the impacts of service reductions on customers, ascertain if bus fares should increase (and by how much) to help reduce the subsidies required and take note of any further comments. The consultation closes on January 17, 2014.
Meanwhile, Wrexham Council is also considering similar cuts, facing a £13m shortfall to provide its services in 2014, which could grow to £45m over the next five years. It has estimated that the subsidy withdrawal could save £495,000.