Feb 2019: We are all losing out on access to bus services due to SCC’s recent budget decision to stop funding roadside timetables.
Really helpful for residents and tourists alike and will really manage to make this county greener and resuce car usage.
However concessionary bus pass holders are losing rural travel entitlement due to cheeseparing decisionmaking by our penny-foolish pound-foolish county council.
Harsh words? I will tell more. In recent years SCC has made a point of not supporting rural scheduled buses and demand responsive transport (DRT) is provided instead. Initially bus pass holders had the same rights on DRT bus transport as they would have on the scheduled service. In 2016 thischanged (You can read details here):http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2016/06/16/will-your-pass-be-accepted-on-sccs-new-community-transport
I was delighted at the time to discover that Suffolk Coastal bus pass holders together with most other districts would not lose entitlement, though very concerned that Mid-Suffolk bus pass holders would. I was also concerned that this loss of entitlement might spread. I was right!
Hidden in this year’s budget (Appendix E p5 Table 1.3: Tactical Savings – Cost Reductions) is the following: COST-GHI-4 Passenger Transport: Removal of Concessionary Fares from Connecting Communities “to ensure consistency of pricing through Suffolk.”
These are weasel words. “Consistency of pricing” could more fairly be achieved by restoring concessionary fares to Mid Suffolk than taking them away from everywhere else. This decision is expected to save £30,000. Less than half of what our fiscally prudent administration wasted on the recent 14pp ResPublica report on Housing. Talk about inappropriate priorities.
Put this together with the budget cut on p7 of the same Appendix (Table 1.6: Tactical Savings – Service Reductions): SER-GHI-12 Passenger Transport: Net savings achieved through a reduction in funding for sponsored bus services combined with an investment in the Connecting Communities demand-responsive community transport service) you can see the administration are creating a perfect storm for those least able to manage: the elderly and disabled with few otherchoices. All to save another £34,000 – literally both sums added together are not equivalent to the money thrown down the gurgler for that 14pp Respublica report).
So why does this matter? The issue is one of equality. If you are unable to use your bus pass and are entitled to one, you can swap your entitlement for (I think) £100.00 of travel vouchers annually. This is useful if you are eg so disabled you cannot access buses, and therefore cannot make use of them.
However in the situation where a bus pass holder is not offered any local buses, they may be very enthusiastic users. This decision means such people have to choose between the vouchers for very local transport- and a bus pass that can be used on every scheduled bus service going throughout the UK, but not locally. If you have a bus pass in Woodbridge you cannot use it to travel to many parts of Suffolk.
These two linked budget decisions therefore represent a huge loss specifically to elderly and disabled rural people with few transport choices – either financially, or in terms of transport freedom.
Add these to County’s decision to stop providing printed roadside timetables from 12 June 2019, to save £100,000 and you have all the ingredients to see off rural bus usage.
Only an administration which has no understanding or reliance on a bus or bus pass would have considered or enacted it…