Cuts to bus services ‘will isolate people’

Dr Alan Wood is unhappy at county council plans to cut village bus services in Halton.
Dr Alan Wood is unhappy at county council plans to cut village bus services in Halton.

Proposed cuts to bus services in the Lancaster district will “isolate many people and damage the local economy” according to the city’s MP.

Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw said he was taking the fight to Parliament after Lancashire County Council announced it was planning to stop subsidising many of the district’s evening and Sunday bus services.

Retired Halton resident Dr Alan Wood said he was “perturbed” when he found out about the plans.

“I don’t drive and I go into town several times a week and use the bus a lot,” the 70-year-old said. “I am not just thinking about my own personal view; I know a lot of people who use the service. It’s another example of the government cutting back services, particularly in the rural area.”

Dr Wood, a former senior lecturer at Lancaster University, added: “People going into Lancaster in the evening to work or for entertainment will be affected,” he said. “I know people who finish work late in Lancaster and if they miss the daytime bus they will be stuck.

“I just find the whole thing very disturbing. It’s cutting off a service to the local community. and people of all ages will be affected. There’s a lot of pressure on people to use public transport and then they cut the public transport service.”

Stagecoach, which runs most of the services, said it was now looking at the long term commercial viability of the chosen routes, with final decisions being made in line with the county council’s May target for the removal of £4m of subsidies over the next two years.

A spokesman said: “Each service and journey will be looked at on its own merits with the data we hold and a decision will be made on the long term commercial viability of any service that is currently funded by the authority.

“We would expect to be able to make these decisions in a timescale that fits with that published by the authority and we work closely with Lancashire County Council on a day to day basis.

“If any members of the public are worried about the effect of any bus services being affected by these proposals we would encourage them to contact their local councillor.”

Mr Ollerenshaw said he had taken up the matter with the Secretary of State for Transport.

He said: “The proposed cuts to routes will have an adverse affect on our rural and town communities alike; isolating many people who have no other means of transport or support as well as damaging the local economy.”

“County Hall, although currently run by Labour, is in effect a ‘hung council’ so I would ask anyone who doesn’t want these proposals to go ahead to lobby their local county councillor. If all the opposition councillors do as the Conservative councillors will be doing and vote against these cuts then they will not go ahead!”

County Coun Gina Dowding, Green Party, said: “These proposals will badly hit people who do not own a car, people on low incomes and those who live in rural areas, raising the travel costs of poorer people especially pensioners who travel free.

“This is not good for people’s well-being and is a move completely in the wrong direction for public transport.”

Conservative County Coun Susie Charles said: “I am worried about the proposed cuts with regard to both rural and town communities.

“A lot of people will be affected and I have had a lot of constituents from around the Lune Valley contacting me.”

A joint statement from Labour county councillors Darren Clifford, Janice Hanson, Chris Henig, Richard Newman-Thompson and Niki Penney said: “No elected member wants to withdraw bus subsidies but we are facing a massive budget shortfall.

“The most vulnerable – who are unable to stand at bus stops – will be protected because funding for community transport will be increased as the need for this service increases.”

The closing date for responses to the consultation is January 17.

A decision will be made at a full council meeting on February 20.