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Bus passengers face cuts to services
7:19am Thursday 3rd January 2013 in News
KEY bus routes across Southampton could be axed in the evening or ditched all together because of the city council’s cost-cutting plans.
Shift workers, hospital visitors and patients, students and pensioners would all be hit by the proposed changes.
Routes affected include the Uni-link U6, linking Southampton University and the city centre to Southampton General.
This would see funding removed for evening services Monday to Saturday after 8pm and all day Sundays and bank holidays.
Under plans subsidies would be axed for services after 8pm, and 6pm on Sunday and bank holidays, on First’s 2, 2A, 3, 8, 8A and 9 routes.
Its S1 and Velvet S2 would be combined into a single service running from Lordshill to Freemantle every 90 minutes.
But the Bluestar P1 faces complete withdrawal.
Southampton city bosses hope cutting the subsidies for those services will save £400,000.
The plan is part of the deepest round of cuts ever made across council services, including libraries, youth clubs and older people’s benefits, in a bid to save £20m in the next year.
Councillor Asa Thorpe, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “The proposals to end subsidies for some bus routes in the city have been put forward to help the council find savings needed to close an unprecedented budget gap in the next financial year.
“The council is in ongoing discussions with the bus companies to determine which routes that are currently subsidised are used the most, and consider those which could have the subsidy removed to contribute to the savings.
“If a subsidy is removed this doesn’t necessarily mean that the route will cease to operate as the bus companies may choose to continue to run the service commercially.
“I’d encourage residents to comment on the proposals through the budget consultation so that we can ensure that we’re taking on board as many ideas and views as possible.”
But Conservative environment and transport spokesman Cllr Dan Fitzhenry said the cuts went too far and communities would be devastated.
He said: “The impact will be across the city on people who rely on it as their main form of transport - people working in the evening, young and old going out to people trying to make appointments.”
Rebel councillor Don Thomas, who has formed the breakaway group Labour Councillors Against The Cuts, said: “This going to affect absolutely everyone.
“It is going to stop elderly people going out in the evening. It will affect children and young people going to the pictures or into town, it will affect mothers and fathers.
“Not everyone in the city have cars, especially in the area in which I live and we depend on the bus, including me.
“The service at present is bad enough as it is and cutting it back further would be devastating, especially for elderly people who will miss out on their evening social activities and become prisoners in their own home.”
Andrew Wickham, managing director of Bluestar, said the firm did not yet know the full impact any cut to subsidies would have.
He said: “All I can say is that we will do our best to maintain our network and Uni-Link services we operate for the University, and not make a knee jerk reaction to any loss of subsidy.
But we did see Bluestar’s fuel bill increase with an additional £433,000 tax on fuel when the Government reduced the Bus Service Operators Grant last April. Whilst we would like to expand services the removal of subsidies of any size makes it difficult as we continue to face rising operating costs.”
No one from First was available for comment.
A consultation process on the cuts is under way until February.