6 January 2010: Squeezed local authorities across the country are looking to buses to make short term savings at the expense of lifeline bus services. For example in North Yorkshire, England's largest county, the council will no longer put on any evening or Sunday services. In Somerset it's looking even worse, with 50% of council run buses under threat. Bus users who live away from more profitable, commercially-run busy routes depend on council funded services, and will be left stranded as local transport budgets from central government shrink sharply. As if that was not bad enough, counties from Cornwall to Cumbria are cutting back on concessionary fares for young people and for the elderly and disabled during peak times.
People travelling to schools, jobs, shops and services rely on our national network of local buses day in, day out. But there is a real danger that after the cuts have taken their toll this network will be left in tatters. Bus cuts will obstruct the delivery of other public services, hold back the economy and magnify social problems. But these impacts are hard to measure and local cuts are hard to keep track of, and that is where you come in.
We are running a crowd sourcing project to start building up a national picture of bus cuts. We want to hear from you if you find out about bus cuts in your area, and how you are personally affected. Why not call your council and check if your local bus is on the chopping block? We want to give bus users a voice, so if you have a personal bus cuts story you want to share, let us know.
Save Our Buses is our new national campaign to protect buses. We are gearing up to launch, but first we need to pull together a national picture of the cuts. Although the cuts primarily stem from massive central government funding reductions, they manifest in localised fragmented ways many miles away from the corridors of Westminster. "Out of sight, out of mind", the slogan goes, so we really have to make some noise so that decision makers can't ignore the ordinary people who suffer from bus cuts.
Of course, these are challenging times for public services across the board. But our experience shows that when the case for buses is made loud and clear, decision makers can be made to see that cutting buses is a false economy. For example, in November we lobbied Norman Baker, the bus minister, to reign in the cuts being made to the concessionary bus scheme. In December he confirmed that changes had been made to concessionary fares guidance, keeping millions of pounds in the bus network that would have otherwise disappeared.
The moral of the story is; make a fuss and save the bus!