Taking the pain out of bus service cuts

28 March 2013

Bus services are often a crucial part of the local community – especially (but not exclusively) for young, elderly, and disabled passengers who often have no alternative transport options.

Passenger Focus, the independent passenger watchdog, has put together a toolkit to help make sure that, when cuts to services are unavoidable, they cause the least misery for those who rely on them. This was a recommendation of the Transport Select Committee in its 2011 report Bus services after the comprehensive spending review.

Passenger Focus passenger director David Sidebottom said: “Passengers tell us that their main priority is that the bus is going to turn up on time – or at all. We recognise that sometimes cuts are unavoidable, but encourage local authorities to keep passengers informed and engaged throughout – it can even help make changes that reduce the need for cuts.”

A good way of keeping passengers informed during changes and reductions is to make sure they are consulted on the planning. Launched at a briefing on Friday, the guide to better consultations  is informed by case studies of when it has gone well, keeping local people involved throughout and making genuine savings for the council.

James Freeman, chief executive of Reading Bus, said: “This is a valuable tool for operators as well as local authorities because it’s not just for cuts – we can use it for proposed changes as well. It’s critical to be able to reach service users and stakeholders.”

Meanwhile Gavin Bennett, of Thurrock Council, which helped develop the toolkit, said that it would continue to be useful for forthcoming consultations.

In September, Passenger Focus published some research  into the impact of bus cuts on passengers’ lives. They told us that it could lead them to be more dependent on lifts, cost them more to use alternatives like taxis, stop them being spontaneous or prevent them from going out at all.

But with the Comprehensive Spending Review reducing the budgets available for local councils and local transport authorities, some tough decisions have had to be made. That’s why this toolkit is not a campaign for more funds (however welcome that might be) but an attempt to help local authorities with the demanding task.


Notes to editors

1. Some other quotes on the toolkit:

Mark Turner, commercial director of Stagecoach Bus: “We are working hard to expand the bus network, so this will help us carry out a really useful consultation. It’s important to remember that it’s not all doom and gloom – in some areas, the bus services are growing. ”

Andrea Speranza, national campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport: “We welcome this tool. We get a lot of mail from campaigners locally saying that they haven’t been able to share their views with local authorities. Anything that can help bridge the gap, so that local authorities can get an idea of the real issues, is a positive thing.”

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