Bus service axe 'will hit most needy'

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Indy Politics

Many parts of the country could be left without public transport as councils reduce funding for bus services in response to government spending cuts, it was claimed today.

Some 70% of councils in England were planning major cuts to their bus budgets, the Campaign for Better Transport said, as it launched a Save Our Buses campaign.

Campaigners said council-funded routes, which include many rural, hospital, evening and weekend services, were under threat and people on low incomes, the young and the elderly would be worst affected.

The group has collected data from every local authority in England to produce an interactive map showing bus cuts across the country.

It said local authority bus cuts amounted to a running tally of at least £34 million, with some councils planning to cut all their supported services and 14 councils cutting support by more than £1 million each.

Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport's chief executive, said: "The Government said that spending cuts would be socially fair, but cuts to bus services will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest.

"We believe any short term savings will be outweighed by the long term cost of a vastly depleted bus network.

"These unprecedented cuts will be especially disastrous for people on low incomes and could effectively mean the death of rural bus services.

"Politicians must consider the social, economic and environmental consequences of failing to protect our bus services."

Sophie Allain, Campaign for Better Transport's bus campaigner, said: "A recession is a terrible time to take away people's buses.

"Compared to the deficit and bankers bonuses, the savings from bus cuts are not a lot of money, but the impacts for ordinary people can be devastating."

The campaigners said buses accounted for two thirds of public transport journeys and argued cuts to services would be counter productive by holding back the economy.

Buses are under threat from cuts to local authorities, which subsidise routes which are socially necessary but not commercially viable, and changes to Government funding on concessionary fares.

Campaigners said cuts to the fuel duty rebate provided by the bus service operators grant would also increase costs for bus companies which would ultimately be passed on to passengers or lead to less profitable services being cut.