Bus cuts look likely to go ahead as panel backs money-saving measures

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thegazette@jpress.co.uk

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Bus cuts are being pushed through despite protests, petitions and almost 70 per cent of those consulted being against the proposed money saving measures.

Protestors from Save our Buses Hertfordshire and Campaign for Better Transport were outside County Hall ahead of a meeting to discuss the controversial cuts on Friday.

A petition of 3,000 signatures was also handed over to the highways cabinet panel as members examined the outcome of the latest bus services consultation.

Herts County Council commissioned a second public consultation with revised options following a mass of objections to initial cutback plans which would have seen all council funding to bus services that run after 6.30pm daily and any that run on a Sunday withdrawn.

The latest questionnaire asked for views on withdrawing funding to council paid for bus services that run after 7.30pm from Monday to Saturday and from services on Sundays, excluding those that go directly to hospitals until 7.30pm.

It will save the county around £662,000 each year and does not affect buses run by companies on a commercial basis.

A total of 1,582 people responded to the survey with 69 per cent against plans to withdraw funding after 7.30pm and almost 62 per cent objecting to proposals to stop funding to Sunday services.

56 per cent said the proposed changes would mean they would be unable to travel to where they wanted or needed to go.

In addition to survey responses, the council received 11 petitions.

Councillor Terry Douris, who oversees highways, said: “We appreciate that if agreed, this will impact on a number of passenger journeys made each year in Hertfordshire. We will continue to work hard with bus operators, community transport groups and the voluntary sector to consider the available alternative transport options for older and vulnerable bus users, but the fact is that the county council is under financial pressure that we can no longer use taxpayers’ money to subsidise bus services at the current level.

“Hertfordshire County Council has to make significant financial savings and we have to balance the needs of bus users alongside all the other demand for the services we provide.”

The council directly funds approximately 11 per cent of all bus journeys made in the county each year. The other 89 per cent are provided by bus companies. Proposals set out in this consultation affects two per cent of all the bus journeys taken in Hertforshire.

The council’s Cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday to make a final decision on whether the cuts will go ahead. If so, the funding changes will come into force from September.