Monday, 1 August 2011

Launceston town bus route under threat?

Cornwall Council may have agreed last week to withdraw the immediate threat to bus subsidies and to start talks with the bus companies, but there are still substantial risks to the future of local services. Launceston residents are still expressing a lot of concern about the future of the town bus service as well as other public transport links in North Cornwall.

The issue is a complex one because the level of reimbursement to bus companies for carrying free pass holders is effectively also a subsidy. Those routes where there are very large numbers of free pass travelers are particularly sensitive to any change in the reimbursement rate.

One such route is the Launceston Town Bus service which links the different parts of our town. The town bus is particularly important because of the topography of the town. The hills mean that, without a bus service, people living in Lanstephan or Ridgegrove and who do not have access to a car might find it almost impossible to get into the town to go shopping or even to go to Tesco if they have mobility difficulties.

I understand that the town bus service carries a particularly large number of free pass holders and is very vulnerable to any change in the reimbursement rate. At present, that rate is 73.5%. Cornwall Council's opening offer was a reduction to 43.5%. My understanding is that any rate below about 65% would make the town bus non-viable without another form of direct subsidy.

Last week I met with residents of Kensey Valley Meadow who were keen for the town bus route to be extended to include them. At the moment, regrettably, it looks as though Cornwall Council is more likely to close down the route than to see it extended.

1 comment:

robert said...

The expressed intention of the legislation is that the reimbursement system must leave the bus operator no worse or better off than if no concessionary fare scheme existed. There is a very complicated and deeply argued formula for this. It should not - in theory - therefore make any difference whether there is a concessionary fare scheme or not. The assumption is that a number of pass holders would still travel and pay the fare so that it ends up the same for the operator. A scheme is wrong if it pays more or less than that. So you should not up the reimbursement rate so that it becomes a subsidy.
The problem this year is that when the Government transferred responsibility from Districts to the County's they also put in place a new formula which has in most places reduced the rate in the £ that operators receive, with little grounds for appeal.With the high cost of fuel they are being squeezed and next year the Government is reducing the fuel tax rebate to bus operators by 50%.
I live in Kent and it is beginning to bite here with more cuts likely.