September 28th, 2016

Cuts blamed for fall in bus numbers

Updated: 9:41 am, May 07, 2015

A DRAMATIC drop in the number of people using buses across the county has been blamed on funding cuts.

Government figures show over a four year period the number of bus journeys across Worcestershire has plummeted by more than ten per cent, equating to 1.8million fewer trips.

During 2009/10 passengers across the county took 17.4million bus journeys whereas by 2013/14 that had fallen to £15.6million, according to latest government figures.

The number of elderly and disabled people travelling using their concessionary bus passes has also fallen over the same period by a million journeys from 6.5million to 5.5million, but that could be attributed to the fact funding for pre-9.30am travel was withdrawn, although in Redditch it continues after the borough council agreed to pay for it.

Redditch has suffered two waves of service cuts over the last four years as a result of Worcestershire County Council’s decision to cut millions of pounds of subsidies. The last round of cutting in 2014 saw about 100 routes in the borough affected.

Coun Andy Fry, who represents Arrow Valley West, and has campaigned against bus service cuts in the past, said: “The poor standard of bus service within Worcestershire and the constant cutting by the county council have made it almost impossible in some areas for people who want to make a bus journey to do so, there are even areas of Redditch where it is difficult to get a bus.

“If the Government really wants us to get on the bus they have got to fund the county council to provide a better service. A lack of investment will mean fewer customers, there’s a direct correlation between those two things.”

Coun John Smith OBE, responsible for highways on the council, acknowledged the subsidy changes would have had an impact but added they had worked hard to limit the withdrawal of services.

He said increasing cycling, walking and changing working patterns would also have had an impact on the figures.

“It’s important to note more than 160 routes, the majority of which are partly or wholly commercially operated, continue to run in Worcestershire. Initiatives like the successful multi-operator Connecta ticket, which we led on putting into place a couple of years ago, show that we’re just as committed to promoting public transport as a travel option.”

The fall is despite a £3.5million government and county council funded Choose How You Move project in Redditch to encourage people to travel more sustainably, including taking the bus.

But Coun Smith said almost 70 per cent of people now knew where to get information about travelling by bus from while 77.8 per cent of people in phase two of the scheme had received a journey plan and used it to get to work with almost 21 per cent quite or very likely to use it in future.