Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Could County Council Bus Service Cuts Be Illegal?

Original image via Stagecoach (Mash-Up via Internet)

Bus Users UK has warned Lancashire County Council that they could be in breach of Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act after they decided to cut all bus subsidies in Lancashire - and opposition councillors have also warned the decision could be subject to judicial review.

The end of bus subsidies - saving the Council £7.5m - was agreed by the County Council at their budget meeting earlier this month.

The County Council made the decision as part of its wider cost saving measures in an effort to save £65 million over the next two years following reductions in central government funding.

Bus users protested in force at the Council meeting, with some Lancashire villages now effectively cut off for non car users.

14 bus services in the Lancaster area have been affected by the cuts (details below) and there are fears for local school children's safety after some of the cuts, especially when Autumn returns and daylight hours are shorter.

According to Dawn Badminton-Capps, Director for England at Bus Users, the planned cuts could be illegal.

“Under Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act every Council and Local Authority has a responsibility to provide funding for socially necessary services.," he says.

“While Lancashire County Council might save money in the short term, they could face huge costs in the long run defending this decision.

"Even more importantly, they will cause massive disruption and distress to all those people who rely on subsidised bus services to access education, health services, shops, or simply to go about their daily lives.”

Responding to concerns, the County has at least put some money aside to fund solutions for areas worst-hit by the cuts and a cross party group is now meeting to consider how to best meet local needs.

The County Council has also decided that transport to day care centres for the elderly and disabled will continue with new arrangements, by merging them with services taking disabled youngsters to school and adults to day centres.

The Lancashire Evening Post reported the council will use its own fleet of travel care buses to provide transport for more than 1,000 elderly and disabled people.

The buses will also continue to be used separately for their current role of taking children with special educational needs and disabilities to and from special schools.

In an effort to save some services, the Lancaster District Bus Users group put forward plans to the council to use a £2 million fund designed to create parish minibus services to build a basic services for villages that have been completely cut off.

“The County Council seem to think that this community minibus service is the way forward, but having spoken to parish councillors there’s not a lot of interest," Jim Davies, chair of the group told InTheBay.

“What we are suggesting is that the council use that money to create a reduced service for villages that no longer have any buses.

“There has also been more enthusaism for a scheme where local parishes could raise money themselves to support or enhance a bus service for their local areas.”

Local Bus Service Reductions and Service Withdrawals - Full details

1. Silverdale Shuttle

Service withdrawn

5 Overton - Morecambe - Carnforth

Late evening service is withdrawn. The last through buses will be at 1840 from either end of the route and a 1940 from Overton and Carnforth as far as Morecambe.

The Sunday service will continue but will close down one hour earlier than on weekdays.

5B Brookhouse - Morecambe

Service withdrawn

5C Carnforth - Crag Bank - Morecambe

Service withdrawn

7 Vale - City Centre - Marsh

Evening and Sunday journeys withdrawn. On Mondays to Saturdays buses from Marsh will run through to Ridge every 30 minutes via the Bus Station.

Vale will have a separate service to George Street running every 20 minutes.

Journeys to Marsh will operate as service 9. Last buses to Marsh at 1855 and Vale at 1820

10 Lancaster - Ridge

Evening and Sunday journeys withdrawn. On Mondays to Saturdays buses from Ridge will run through to Marsh on service 9 via the Bus Station every 30 minutes. Last bus from Bus Station to Ridge at 1928

33 Morecambe - Bare (Circular)

Service withdrawn

42 Lancaster - Blackpool

The evening journeys operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire will be withdrawn.

The situation over the Sunday service (which is subsidised during the winter) is unclear. Stagecoach has confirmed that the Sunday service will continue during the winter months but that the last journey of the day in each direction will be withdrawn

49 Lancaster - Halton

Off-peak journeys will be extended to Warton via the Kellets and Carnforth, replacing service 51. Evening journeys on service 81 that run via Halton are withdrawn but Halton will keep a service on 49 up to 1900 hrs.

The Sunday service is withdrawn.

51 Lancaster - Carnforth - Silverdale

This service is withdrawn, replaced between Lancaster and Warton by a revised service 49 (see above), but there will be no service beyond Warton.

Locals have pointed out the dangers the withdrawal of this service could have on school children, especially during the winter when roads they may now have to walk to get home on will be in darkness.

Evening and Sunday service is withdrawn.

55 Lancaster - Carnforth

Late evening journeys operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire are withdrawn. Daytime journeys will run to a new timetable.

The last bus from Lancaster at 2200 and Carnforth at 2223

80 Lancaster - Ingleton

The 0655 from Ingleton to Lancaster will start at Hornby at 0741. There will be other changes to the timetable but a basic two-hourly daytime service will continue. Buses will return from Lancaster at 1015, 1215, 1415, 1525 (Hornby only) and 1715 (Not Saturdays)

81 Lancaster - Kirkby Lonsdale

Buses will run every two hours via Hornby, Melling and Tunstall (i.e. not serving Wray or Wennington, which are served by service 80). The only buses via Gressingham and Whittington will be those serving QE School in Kirkby Lonsdale.

There will be no evening or Sunday service. Last bus from Lancaster will be at 1730 and from Kirkby Lonsdale at 1715.

89 Lancaster - Knott End on Sea

Service withdrawn

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