‘WHEN bus services are axed, it isolates communities,’ Unison warned in launching a new campaign to save local bus services.
‘We are living in isolation!’ Michelle Wilkes exclaimed, describing the impact of bus service cuts on her community near Shropshire. The Monday-to-Saturday bus service which served my village has been axed. The nearest bus stop is now six miles away.
‘I live in a large village, tucked in between the market towns of Ludlow and Bridgnorth in Shropshire, but our community is effectively cut off because of this cut. Before it was cut, I used the bus service for work purposes.
‘Without the bus to our village, I have had to rely on the goodwill of neighbours so that I can keep to my zero-hours contract, which is difficult, as everyone has different work patterns.
‘Shropshire Council outsourced the service to a community transport scheme, so that residents in our village can still get access to “essential services” like hospital appointments by car.
‘But this service is not always available and is very expensive – three appointments I had in December were costed at £70 using the scheme. When I had an appointment for a cancer screening I tried to book a community car, but my local scheme had no availability.
‘Eventually, a neighbouring transport scheme took the booking, but did not turn up, so I missed the appointment! Without the bus service, young people cannot travel independently and have no access to health clinics, dentists, leisure services, the library, after-school clubs, revision sessions or training opportunities.
‘My children – both teenagers – cannot meet friends and have to stay in the village during school holidays. Elderly people also suffer; they are unable to access services and have no use for their bus pass. We are living in isolation.’
The Campaign for better transport said: ‘Buses are the most frequently used form of public transport. Day in and day out they link thousands of people up and down the country to jobs, schools and shops. However, government spending cuts are having a devastating effect on our vital bus services.
‘Across the country vital buses are being axed by local authorities as they make financially agonising decisions of where to cut spending. The Save Our Buses campaign stands up for treasured local buses and defends them from damaging funding cuts.
‘Routes and services across England and Wales are being lost and if we don’t make a stand now, it will be too late. Buses must be saved because:
• 64 per cent of jobseekers either have no access to a vehicle or cannot drive
• Young people are amongst the biggest users of bus services, whilst 40 per cent of people over 60 use the bus at least once a week
• Passenger cars produce nearly 60 per cent of all CO2 emissions from road transport in the UK, compared with just 5 per cent from buses
• If drivers switched just one in twenty five of their car journeys to bus or coach, it would mean one billion fewer car journeys per year
• Every £1 of public investment in buses provides between £3 and £5 of wider benefits
• Bus commuters generate £64 billion in economic output every year.’
Campaign Group 38 Degrees is concerned about cuts to the Wiltshire bus services, which face exactly the same issues as Shropshire. 800 people have signed a letter addressed to the Local Wiltshire Councillors and MPs.
The letter reads: ‘The government and Wiltshire Council are about to make the most savage cuts to the local bus network that have ever been seen. 50 per cent of bus services are supported by Wiltshire Council.
‘Any cuts will leave thousands of local residents without any form of transport unless they are lucky enough to own their own transport. Buses are the most frequently used form of public transport. Day in and day out they link thousands of people up and down the county to jobs, schools and shops.
‘However, Wiltshire Council spending cuts will have a devastating effect on our vital bus services. Across the county vital buses will be axed by local Conservative Councillors as they make final decisions which will mean rural and town services will be axed. However before making their final decision they should take the following into account.
‘64 per cent of jobseekers either have no access to a vehicle or cannot drive; Young people are amongst the biggest users of bus services, whilst 40 per cent of people over 60 use the bus at least once a week;
‘Passenger cars produce nearly 60 per cent of all CO2 emissions from road transport in the UK, compared with just 5 per cent from buses; If drivers switched just one in twenty five of their car journeys to bus or coach, it would mean one billion fewer car journeys per year;
‘Every £1 of public investment in buses provides between £3 and £5 of wider benefits; Bus commuters generate £64 billion in economic output every year. The biggest problem is that few if any of these Councillors that will decide the fate of our bus network in Wiltshire will have ever set foot on a bus.’
Hertfordshire has also been hit hard by cuts. Save our buses Hertfordshire said: ‘Hertfordshire’s bus services are heading for crisis. Last year Hertfordshire County Council cut funding to its 2015/16 bus budget by £1.7 million, the largest sum of any English council.
‘From September 2015 over 40 routes have been withdrawn, evening services no longer run or are much less frequent and fewer Sunday services are running. And it doesn’t end there. Because we now know that the county council hasn’t made the budget savings it calculated, more cuts are on the way as from 2016.
‘The situation is getting worse all around the country – Government cuts to councils threaten entire bus networks as new research indicates a deepening national crisis faced by local buses. Since 2010 over 2,400 bus services have been withdrawn, altered or reduced in England and Wales according the Campaign for Better Transport report Buses in Crisis.
‘We say that these cuts to services are unacceptable, unnecessary, are damaging our towns’ economies, making people’s lives a misery and resulting in rising fares. Cuts to bus services severely restrict people’s ability for travel:
• to and from work
• visiting friends and relatives
• access education and training
• access to hospitals, doctors, dentists and other medical services
• access to leisure activities including town and countryside locations.