Monday, 6 January 2014

County's bus cuts plan will bring "harm and misery", argues local transport expert

Professor John Whitelegg
Local transport expert Professor John Whitelegg has hit out at proposals from Lancashire County Council to cut bus subsidies for evening services across the district.

As we reported just before Christmas, Lancashire County Council has launched a consultation on its proposal to make massive cuts to evening and Sunday bus services, which has already raised concerns from local MP Eric Ollerenshaw.

The Labour-run County Council, which is consulting on the plan, says it will save £3.8m over the next two years by withdrawing subsidies which enable the services to operate across the county.

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 bus cuts announced by the county council are a savage attack on public transport in this area," says Lancaster-based Professor 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. "They will damage the lives of older people and those who do not own a car and they are yet another attack on low income groups and those who live in rural areas."

As for the County's consultation, he says he doesn't have any expectations that they will pay any notice to opposition to their plans.

"In line with all other county council consultations, such as school closures, the results will not make a jot of difference to the outcome," he told virtual-lancaster.

The author of ten books and over 100 papers, John Whitelegg has worked on sustainable transport projects for 30 years, working extensively on consultancy and research projects for the UK local authorities, the European Commission, the Australian federal and state governments and many private sector clients including Pfizer, the US Pharmaceutical manufacturer.

He has worked extensively in China and India including projects to produce transport strategies for Kolkata (Calcutta) and Beijing, and is clearly depressed that the vision of other countries when it comes to public transport is not reflected locally.
"The cuts show the reality that lies behind the political rhetoric," he argues. "Politicians claim to support public transport and yet make savage cuts in bus services. They claim to support rail services and yet we have some of the highest fares in Europe.

"They claim to support walking and cycling as a contribution to health, reducing congestion and greenhouse gases – and then they support more road building, more traffic and more pollution.

"Lancaster already has a serious air pollution problem and has done nothing to improve air quality since it was given the statutory responsibility for improving air quality in 1995," he notes. "29,000 people die every year in Britain as a result of poor air quality, the majority of which is traffic related, and some of these are from Lancaster.

"Cutting bus services will increase traffic levels and directly contradicts national and local transport and planning policy."

Professor Whitelegg also feels it's no coincidence that the propose public transport cuts have been announced just as the County gets the full go ahead for new road building.

"The proposed cuts to bus services have come very rapidly on the heels of the final approval for the Heysham M6 Link Road," he notes. "The County Council is facing huge budget cuts from a socially irresponsible government and these cuts will produce harm and misery for bus users and those who need to use other vital public services like care for the elderly.

"The county has taken a big 'hit' with central governement cuts but in its determination to get the bypass built and against a background of its own admission that it will not reduce congestion it has put £17 million of its own money into the bypass to top up the government’s contribution to the scheme. This shift of resources to a road and away from buses is a clear attack on the most vulnerable in society.

"The County Council has chosen to transfer resources from public transport to car owners," he argues, "and national statistics show that this is a direct transfer from the relatively poor to the relatively rich."

• The consultation period ends on 10 January with the 2014 budget decided at a full County Council meeting on 20 February. The county council would like to hear any comments you may have on the proposals that have been put forward:

Campaign for Better Transport "Save Our Buses" Camapign 

View the Campaign for Better Transport's interactive bus cuts map which makes transparent the extent of the problem of local authority funding cuts to buses. This map is a crowd sourcing project, which means the CBT are asking you to help us track bus cuts 

County Council documents on affected services (PDF links)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why are my taxes used to fund the profits of private bus companies? The council should be making sure that future bids for route contracts are awarded to companies that will offset loss making routes with the profits they make from the more popular routes and as far as i know that is something Labour is suggesting.

Cant have a grown up discussion if all people have is a massive wishlist of things they want, when there's no money to pay for it