Tuesday, 14 January 2014
Last chance to comment on bus changes
Lancashire County Council is reminding people they have until Friday (17th January) to respond to a consultation on possible changes to public transport.
The council is proposing to reduce support for buses to focus on maintaining services during the daytime and ensure the county's most vulnerable people can access public transport - but the proposals have been met with fury from bus users and condemned by transport experts and some political parties.
Locally, bus services to Freehold, the Ridge the Marsh and Vale estates in Lancaster and Skerton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth, Hest Bank Railway Station, Bolton-le-Sands and Overton are among those that would be lost if the plan goes ahead.
The Council says the plans will look to save £3.8m over two years which would see funding withdrawn for evening and Sunday services that currently receive council subsidies to allow them to operate.
The proposals are being consulted on as part of the council's budget for 2014, as it confronts an unprecedented financial challenge, needing to save £300m over the next four years due to central government cuts.
In addition, the council proposes to invest a further £500, 000 in dial-a-ride services to ensure community transport providers have the capacity to cater for those most in need.
Professor John Whitelegg, who is a visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute, has condmened the plans saying they are a "savage attack" on public transport in this area
"They will damage the lives of older people and those who do not own a car," he argues, "and they are yet another attack on low income groups and those who live in rural areas."
"This will lead to greater car use and an inability to travel at those times for anyone who does not have a car, so particularly the young, the old and the poor," argues Caton resident Ursula Gallie, who has launced an online petition to try to save the Kirkby Lonsdale service.
"It will undermine efforts to cut down on car use, add to traffic in Lancaster, put pressure on parking and undermine campaigns to reduce carbon emissions."
Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw has already raised questions in the House of Commons about the proposals and is taking the matter up with the Secretary of State for Transport.
80 per cent of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20 per cent are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by around £8m from the county council each year.
The proposal would see subsides withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18th May 2014.
The county council's budget will be decided at a meeting of the Full Council on 20th February.
• You can view the consultation documents and the full list of services affected at www.lancashire.gov.uk/haveyoursay and respond on the website. You can also email responses to email@example.com or by post to Bus and Supported Transport Manager, Lancashire County Council, Room D3, PO Box 100, County Hall, Preston, PR1 0LD. The closing date for responses is Friday 17th January 2014