County Council Agrees £2m Funding For 28 Bus Routes
Lancashire County Council has agreed to invest £2m to support buses in many areas of the county which would otherwise have no public transport.
The fund will support 28 routes to ensure people can get to work, do their shopping, and access education, health and other vital services. The county council had been due to withdraw funding from 113 routes from April.
Bus companies have decided to operate 40 of these routes on a commercial basis. Today’s decision by the county council to fund a further 28 routes means that 68 of the 113 routes will continue from Monday 3 April on a full or partial basis.
It is proposed that two of the routes serving villages near Chorley and Chorley Hospital be funded jointly with Chorley Council.
A cross-party Cabinet Working Group had been established to consider the impact of the decision by the Full Council to withdraw 113 existing bus contracts from April as part of £65m budget savings.
The group met today to consider the response from bus operators to the new contracts being proposed, and made recommendations to the cabinet member for highways and transport to go ahead with funding 26 services for 12 months from April.
Following the meeting, the cabinet member decided to accept the working group’s recommendations, and made a further decision to support the 24A and 109A services, to be funded in partnership with Chorley Council. It is proposed that the Chorley services initially be supported for six months, with funding split 70% from Chorley Borough Council and 30% from Lancashire County Council. The councils’ funding will support these services to operate in the evenings from Monday to Saturday, and during the daytime on Sundays. The services will continue to operate on a commercial basis during the day from Monday to Saturday.
County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Following the decision by government to cut hundreds of millions of pounds of funding to Lancashire County Council we have been forced to reduce our current funding for buses from around £7m to £2m.
“This has been a very difficult process that the all-party working group has had to get to grips with, to make the best of a bad situation. I’m very pleased to accept the working group’s recommendation to fund these bus services which will mean most areas of the county will continue to receive regular public transport.
“Some of these services will not operate as often as they do at the moment, but the new timetables will ensure there is a bus at peak times when people would most need them to access employment and education, and enough services to allow people to make vital appointments such as visiting the doctor’s.
“There has been a positive response from the bus companies in continuing to operate 40 services commercially, and the decisions I have made today to invest £2m to support a further 28 services, mean that most areas will continue to be served by a bus after April.
“Following the decision by Chorley Council to explore with us a new way of providing services through our ‘Parish Based Partnership’, I’ve also agreed to fund two further services in partnership with them. I’m very grateful for their help in providing the resources to allow us to maintain the connection to the hospital and rural areas.
“We do recognise that despite this some areas will see major changes including the loss of their only service. But the work we are undertaking does not stop here. Not only are we providing the £2m revenue funding, we’re also providing a further £1m capital funding for new services through the Parish Based Partnership. At the same time we’re maintaining the NoWcard fully and securing 3 years’ sustainable funding for community transport, which supports those requiring a door-to-door service.
“I’d encourage people to help us to maintain these buses by using them regularly. I hesitate to use the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ but it’s clear that the best way to keep these buses is to use them.”
The county council wrote to councils and community groups across Lancashire in November to seek their interest in developing community-based buses to improve existing services and develop new routes. A number of expressions of interest have been received and transport officers will continue to work with the groups concerned to explore the options available. The council is still keen to hear from any other local groups which may be interested in operating community-based buses.