Bus service cuts 'at critical levels'

Cuts to rural bus services are "a false economy" says Martin Abrams from the Campaign for Better Transport

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Cuts to bus services are reaching "critical levels", a report from the Campaign for Better Transport has said.

Almost half of local authorities reduced their support for buses in 2013 and some may remove all support next year, the study says.

It adds that next year will be "very difficult" as many local authorities have deferred cuts to next year to allow for public consultations.

The campaign gathered data from local councils in England and Wales.

It found a net reduction of £10m in spending on subsidies for bus services in England in the 2013-14 financial year.

'Watershed moment'

The campaign's report also showed that since 2011, as many as 264 bus services have been cut or withdrawn in England.

Of those, 147 cuts were made in the current financial year.

"Cuts to bus services are now reaching critical levels," said Martin Abrams, from the Campaign for Better Transport.

"This is a watershed moment. If government doesn't take action to help support buses we will see whole networks disappear."

The report highlights many individual authorities that have made cutbacks.

It says that Worcestershire and Cumbria county councils are consulting on plans to cut their entire budget for supporting bus services.

The report adds that Essex County Council has plans to reduce its support by 30%.

Government response

In September, official data showed there were 70 million fewer journeys on England's buses last year, a fall of 1.4%.

Stripping out London, where bus travel has been booming for years, the decline was higher, at 2.5%.

At the time, Transport minister Norman Baker said: "The government spends well over £1bn per year on concessionary travel and other support for buses every year.

"We are protecting bus subsidy and targeting it where it is needed most as well as making significant new funding available for bus improvements.

"The Department for Transport strongly supports bus travel. It is true that some councils have noticeably cut bus services, but others have not."

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