Consultation on Shropshire bus cuts closes after huge response
A public consultation into proposed £455,000 cuts to bus routes in the county has closed – with one councillor saying he is “appalled” at the scheme.
Shropshire Council said it had received a late “influx” of responses to the consultation and one councillor estimated that about 1,000 people took part.
The authority said the responses are now being analysed before any alterations to proposals are considered.
The council’s financial strategy for 2019/20 includes a budget reduction of £405,000 in public transport and £50,000 for Shrewsbury Park & Ride.
To achieve these reductions a number of initiatives will have to be implemented and the consultation asked for views about these proposed changes.
Councillor Simon Harris, deputy transport portfolio holder, said there had been a huge response to the consultation and it was one of the most commented-on proposals the council had ever had.
“We are talking in the almost-1,000 responses region and these will now be collated and looked at before a response it made,” he said.
“It will be properly looked at and any changes can be made is necessary.”
The council said an official number of respondents would be released later this week.
The proposed cuts have sparked anger among many residents and traders who held a protest march in Shrewsbury town centre last month.
Councillor Andy Boddington, member for Ludlow South, described it as a cut to a social service and said the council “hasn’t a clue” about how it will impact on local services.
WATCH: Bus protests in Shrewsbury
He added that he was annoyed the council was investing money in road infrastructure around Oswestry and Shrewsbury rather than public transport in rural areas.
He said: “This is a slash-and-burn exercise driven by a council that doesn’t have a strategy for the future of public transport in the county.
“The proposals will cut Bishop’s Castle off except for the school run. It is bad news for sustainable transport in Shrewsbury with a substantial hike in park and ride costs. In Ludlow, the popular 701 town service will be cut by a third.
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“These cuts will disproportionately disadvantage older and vulnerable people, along with those of limited mobility.
"Shropshire Council has failed to assess the impact of the cuts on people, communities and the environment.
“Buses are a social service. By providing access to medical, retail and social facilities, they promote health and wellbeing.
"The council hasn’t a clue about how these cuts will affect vulnerable people and communities.”
“The 701 and 722 services are community centres on wheels. Passengers exchange news. If someone is not seen, enquiries are made.
“Few routes in the south of the county can be run on a commercial basis. But the social and wellbeing gain from buses means that they more than pay their way.”
Future of public transport
Councillor Boddington added: “I am appalled that Shropshire Council should propose these cuts without a coherent strategy for the future of public transport across the county, especially the rural districts.
“The future of transport in our county is not just roads. Buses have a vital role in supporting rural communities and vulnerable people.
“The council should rethink the cuts. It should promote buses. It no longer issues timetables and the paper timetables on bus stops can be years out of date. Instead of its cowardly approach to sustainable public transport it should become a bus champion.
“Millions are being pumped into roads around Shrewsbury and Oswestry in the name of sustainable transport. But there is nothing sustainable about the work going on there. It is all about cars.”
Meanwhile new figures have shown that between April 2017 and March 2018 there were 300,000 fewer bus passenger journeys in Shropshire than the previous year.
In Telford & Wrekin the figure was down 400,000 on the previous year.