Campaigners' fears over rural Shropshire bus routes
The slashing of bus subsidies will make many rural routes unviable and under threat in coming years, campaigners warned at a public meeting.
Bus service campaigners joined councillors in Ludlow yesterday to talk about the future of rural services within the town, and those linking it to places such as Shrewsbury, Hereford and Knighton.
With Shropshire Council looking at slashing the money available for bus subsidies by more than 90 per cent in the coming years, among the worst-hit could be routes serving rural towns like Ludlow.
The consequences would be serious for trade and the health of an ageing population, those gathered at Ludlow Assembly Rooms heard.
Meanwhile, the 490 service from Leominster, which was reinstated less than a year ago after a public campaign, is set to to be scrapped once more in March unless town and parish councils on the Shropshire side of the border can chip in to subsidise it until Herefordshire Council reviews the route this autumn.
About 50 people attended the meeting called by Bus Users Shropshire.
Les Lumsden, speaking for local campaign group Save Our Buses, urged users to set up defence groups for the bus routes they used.
He said buses were a form of transport often overlooked in keeping town centres like Ludlow vibrant.
"If we look at market-day passengers only, buses are coming into town with about 100 people on them," he said.
And he said it had been calculated that each user taking a bus journey into a market town centre from elsewhere spent on average about £38 each in goods and services.
"Buses are bringing thousands of pounds into Ludlow," he said.
Others said the loss of buses had contributed to illness in outlying villages as elderly residents could not get out of the house or to medical services easily.
Madge Shineton, Shropshire councillor for Cleobury Mortimer, told the campaigners: "You should be directing your energies to putting transport on the health agenda.
"Transport and housing are the two biggest side issues to health."
However, Andy Boddington, Shropshire councillor for Ludlow North, said the current 701 and 722 town centre services in Ludlow were subsidised at £85,000 a year.
With the subsidy budget for the whole of Shropshire set to be slashed to just £145,000 by 2018, the Ludlow routes could only expect a tiny fraction of that, if anything at all, in the coming years he said.
He said the plan was for such services to be run purely from commercial fares and income from bus passes.
"There isn't going to be enough money in this budget if it goes ahead. This is not going to run the services we've got," he said.
He added: "It really is quite serious. In this town 28 per cent of households don't own a car."
He said buses needed to be fought for as a "social service" in the coming wrangles over how dwindling money available should be spent by local authorities.
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