The Chichester Society considers the proposals of West Sussex County Council to cut bus services in such a dramatic way as they propose to be a disproportionate response to the situation, even given that cuts have to be made.
The removal of evening and Sunday services means more than 25,000 people in major centres of population in West Sussex will be without any form of public transport whatever at these times – some 18,000 on the Manhood peninsula, 5,000 in Midhurst and 2,500 in Tangmere.
For many, this will represent a considerable restriction on their activities. For others, it will force the expense of buying a car, after which the prospect of their supporting the bus service will disappear.
West Sussex is proposing to make larger cuts in bus services than almost any other county. Hampshire is also proposing some £2m of cuts, but from a larger budget, so the cut there represents 22 per cent, not 40 per cent as here.
Kent is going to manage with a much smaller cut, of £0.3m, which means no services will be completely removed.
If you compare the 40 per cent cut in bus subsidy with the reduction in grant from central government, which is only 0.7 per cent, it seems buses are being expected to be the sacrificial victims of the squeeze.
The Society would like WSCC to reconsider their budget allocation, and at least ensure a skeleton service to major centres of population throughout the week, including evening services. Where some support is currently given to daytime services (as is the case for services 52, 53 and 55), this should certainly be transferred to evening services.
In other cases we would hope if it is really impossible to avoid such swingeing cuts, then at least imaginative solutions such as minibus transport or flexible routes would be considered.
The long-term solution, apart from anything forced on car drivers by fuel prices, is for intensive lobbying by shire counties to shift some of the London bus subsidy, planned to be £450m even after cuts, to rural districts. Could the county council work on this, please?
The Chichester Society