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Cuts to bus services are at ‘critical levels’
PROPOSED bus cuts in Oxfordshire have been criticised by a national campaign group which has said services are in crisis.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has expressed concern that more local authorities might stop supporting bus services.
Last night Oxfordshire County Council would not confirm or deny whether it would continue to subsidise services.
In its report – Buses in Crisis – the CBT highlights the county council’s consultation on supported bus services and “significant cuts” proposed in West Oxfordshire.
The CBT’s public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: “Cuts to bus services are now reaching critical levels. We have seen services lost year on year and with further deep cuts planned next year, some authorities may stop supporting buses altogether.
“Politicians, both locally and in Westminster, need to understand how important buses are.
“They may not be as politically sexy as big transport projects but they make a significant difference to the economy, the environment and to wider society.
“It would be a disaster if whole networks were allowed to disappear.”
The county council currently spends around £30m a year on transport services including bus subsidies, home to school transport and concessionary bus passes for the elderly and disabled.
Last month it launched a root and branch review of its transport budget in the hope of saving £3.2m by 2018.
Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The council will be working closely with transport providers, service users and the voluntary sector to find solutions. The more innovative the council can be with help of providers and users of transport, the fewer actual cuts the council will have to make.”
When asked whether the council would continue supporting bus services, Mr Smith said he could not comment as this would pre-empt the review.
Meanwhile the authority has launched a review of 30 services in West Oxfordshire where contracts with companies are due to end in May.
Deputy council leader Rodney Rose said: “The review in West Oxfordshire is nothing to do with budget cuts, it is the six-yearly review of bus contracts that we do all over the county. The review is based on usage. You wouldn’t want us to subsidise buses which run empty.”
Nationally, the Campaign for Better Transport says 47 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales have reduced their support for buses this year.
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