Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Funding cuts threaten weekend bus services

THREE more bus services in Frome could be stopped and restrictions placed on bus passes next year, following further budget cutbacks at Somerset County Council.

The 53/58 and 414/424 Saturday services could be withdrawn, and the weekly 33 route could be stopped altogether. Those using a concessionary bus pass could have their discount halved and removed completely between 9am and 9.30am.

Local bus user and campaigner Tracey Harding said, “I wasn’t particularly surprised by this announcement; we were expecting more cuts soon. I think bus users in Somerset are getting a particularly raw deal. We don’t see the same problems with trains – for some reason politicians just aren’t interested in bus services.

“To have these possible cuts announced so soon after the ones in August is a bitter blow for bus users in Frome and for Frome itself. We have lost half of our weekend services in the past year alone.

“People need buses to get to work, go to the shops, attend hospital as well as to see friends and family. This could force more people to shop online and severely impact the local Frome economy.

“In Frome we still have the train station, but people in villages don’t have that, and will be hit particulary hard.”

Somerset County Council has begun a consultation for local people to have their say on how the changes would affect them.

The cuts could come as the local authority tries to adjust its budget to an expected loss of 20% (£63million) from its current annual Government funding by 2019. The council says services that have low passenger use or have possible alternatives have been targeted for reductions.

Councillor David Fothergill, cabinet member for highways and transport said, “Having to consider drastically reducing the council’s funding for bus services is incredibly tough and we do not take it at all lightly.

“We have worked hard to protect this funding for as long as possible, and it is a real and raw sign of the financial times that we face, with increasingly more difficult decisions about the services we can afford to provide.

“I urge anyone affected by these proposals to take part in these consultations and have their say. All the results will be considered before any decisions are made.”

The 53/58 service runs from Frome to Warminster via Corsley, and makes 10 journeys on a Saturday. Somerset County Council and Wiltshire County Council both fund the service – Somerset is proposing to withdraw its contribution.

The 414/424 runs from Frome to Midsomer Norton five times every Saturday. The council propose withdrawing the Saturday service completely.

The 33 service from Frome to Wincanton runs once a week on Wednesdays. Somerset proposes withdrawing the service completely.

A total of 25 services across the county could be affected.

Local people holding concessionary bus passes could also feel the sting of budget restraints, if their benefits are cut. The county council has proposed reducing the bus pass discount from 50% to 25% on fares up to £5 single or £10 return.

Concessionary discounts could also be made not to apply between 9am and 9.30am, and the companion free travel element – which allows carers for the disabled to travel for free –  could be removed.

The cuts come less than six months after First withdrew its routes in town, which saw Frome Minibuses and Faresaver step in to take on the 234 and 30 services.

To find out more about the consultation on service changes, go to the council’s website via  www.tinyurl.com/oae9lzp

To find out more about the consultation on bus pass changes, go to the council’s website via www.tinyurl.com/q9mvcqr

Printed versions of both consultations are also available. Phone Somerset Direct on 0300 123 2224 for more information.

 

You must be logged in to post a comment Login