bus service set to end as council funding dries up
Bus users in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge have been dealt
a fresh blow this week with the news that temporary support for
three former Webberbus routes is unlikely to be extended when
it runs out in December.
Emergency funding has helped cover the costs of the 67 service
(Wookey Hole/Wells to Burnham-On-Sea) and F and C services in
and around Bridgwater since the operator ceased trading at short
notice at the end of May.
The interim contracts expire on 26th November and the County Council
said this week that no new operators have expressed an interest
in taking them on.
The council plans to extend the contracts until the end of the
year but says it cannot afford to extend any longer.
A decision due to be taken on Friday (21st October) recommends
that the emergency funding for the contracts is not extended beyond
31st December, when the routes will cease to operate.
Alternative arrangements will be available for County Ticket holders
who use the services to get to college.
The County Council spends around £1.6m subsidising bus services
across the county, but the huge pressure on all its budgets means
it cannot afford to continue the arrangements costing an extra
£22,000 per a month.
The average number of passengers per trip on the C and F services
is four, and seven on the 67.
In the coming weeks transport officers will be contacting bus
operators and parish councils to see if there are opportunities
for community-supported, no or low-cost alternatives that the
council can encourage and support to fill some of the gaps.
The County Council continues to fund the Slinky service and financially
support demand responsive Community Transport schemes by covering
half the cost of fares for journeys made using concessionary bus
"We have done our best but unfortunately no operators want
to run these routes because they are not viable," Councillor
David Fothergill, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, told
"The Councils financial position is well-documented,
with falling funding and increased costs, and we cannot afford
to carry on paying this extra money for these routes. We will
do what we can to assist communities if they have ideas for alternatives,
for example through community car share schemes or changing the
areas covered by Community Transport schemes."
County Council says councillors whose wards are covered by the
buses have been notified of the planned decision. Parishes councils
will be contacted from next week and students will be notified
of alternative arrangements once these have been agreed.