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Buses face the axe as Devon County Council commits £21m to the Kingskerswell bypass

18 February 2011
Devon County Council's decision to cut £1.3 from its bus budget has been slammed by campaigners who warn the council is prioritising road building at the expense of public transport.

Sustainable transport group, Campaign for Better Transport, and local pressure group, the Kingskerswell Alliance, argue that cutting lifeline bus services, whilst pledging a further £21m to the proposed Kingskerswell bypass, shows the council has its priorities all wrong.

The council confirmed the cut to its bus budget at a meeting yesterday (17 February), but has yet to decide exactly which services will be affected. Campaigners warn that cuts are likely to hit the poorest and most vulnerable Devon residents hardest with rural, evening and weekend services at risk.

Sophie Allain, Campaign for Better Transport’s bus campaigner, said: “We understand councils are under pressure to make savings, but bus cuts are a false economy once you take into consideration the knock-on effects of reduced mobility and will lead to more money being spent elsewhere, for example in welfare and social care. With 40 per cent of evening bus journeys work related, cutting these services will hit workers, jobseekers and the economy. We urge the council to consult local people before deciding how to make these cuts to identify routes where the impact will be least felt. There are ways to mitigate the negative impact of bus cuts, but building a hugely expensive and unnecessary road isn’t one of them."

The cuts come just weeks after the council pledged more money to the Kingskerswell bypass, bringing the total council contribution to the costs of building the road to £33m, despite the scheme having no guarantee of the necessary Government funding needed to complete it. The bypass is just one of 45 similar road schemes nationwide vying for a share of £630m of Government money.

Ken Pegden, Chairman of the Kingskerswell Alliance said: "At a time when Devon County Council are being forced to cut jobs, close libraries and now close bus routes, it makes no sense for them to commit £21m of our money promoting such a hugely expensive scheme when more cost effective alternatives exist."

Campaign for Better Transport has launched a national campaign to protect local bus services in response to unprecedented council spending cuts. Save Our Buses aims to highlight the social, economic and environmental consequences of bus cuts and urge central Government to do more to protect the bus network.

Devon County Council has yet to decide which services will bear the brunt of the cuts, but with more cuts expected next year, Campaign for Better Transport is urging local people to stand up for their routes. The Save Our Buses campaign kit includes tips and resources to help people fight for their local buses and can be downloaded from the Save Our Buses website.

Notes to Editors

1. Save Our Buses is a campaign from Campaign for Better Transport that makes the case for buses to Government decision-makers and supports local campaign groups to fight bus cuts in their area. View the interactive map to see bus cuts across the county.

2. The Kingskerswell bypass in one of 45 road schemes currently in the Government's local transport schemes 'development group' who are vying for a share of £630m in Government funding. A decision on which schemes will receive funding will be made later in the year.

3. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

4. The Kingskerswell Alliance is a group of concerned local people who propose cost effective and sustainable alternatives that are an environmentally friendly solution to traffic problems and which render the building of the Kingskerswell Bypass an out-of-date answer.