Further bus cuts could be ‘downward spiral’

FARE increases, withdrawal of Sunday services and the cancellation of routes are all being considered for county buses, including several in Comet country.

The proposals, which will be discussed at a Highways and Transport Panel Meeting next week, are a bid to save Herts County Council (HCC) a further �700,000 annually. The commercial operators which run the routes are subsidised by the council.

Some services could be withdrawn on Sunday evenings, including town services within Stevenage, and services connecting Stevenage to Luton and Hemel Hempstead. These proposals, along with reductions in the county’s larger towns, would save �150,000 in one year.

Early morning and evening services may also be cancelled on routes connecting Hitchin to Biggleswade, Sunday and public holiday services could be scrapped on the Stevenage to Stansted Airport route, and the 90/91 service between Royston and Letchworth could be withdrawn completely.

There are also proposals to increase the fares by withdrawing return tickets or reducing discounts on a number of services including the 88 from Luton to Hitchin, the 89 from Henlow to Hitchin and the 304 from St Albans to Hitchin. The proposals would particularly affect those living in rural villages located on the routes, including Pirton and Kimpton.

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David Tyler, a Hertfordshire transport geographer, told The Comet: “The main problem is it’s a downward spiral. The fewer buses there are, the less people are inclined to rely on them. The next thing you know, no-one is using them so they’re cut.

“Even if virtually no-one is using it, they may be essential to those few people who do and their only way of getting around.”

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So far this year, around 50 services have been withdrawn, with many routes also changed and reduced. School routes also have had, or will have, county council funding removed.

Stuart Pile, HCC executive member for highways and transport said: “In the difficult economic climate it’s vital that we identify the best way to use our resources.

“The new strategy aims to give us the flexibility to make the best use of our money in the short term, while setting out a plan for how we will develop the bus network over the next 20 years.”

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