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Call to reverse £450,000 cuts plans for Shropshire bus services

By Lucy Todman | Transport | Published:

Calls have been made for the leader of Shropshire Council to halt the controversial consultation in to changes to the county's bus services.

The Green Party has asked the authority to reverse its plan to cut bus funding and to recognise rural buses as an essential service for rural residents.

Shropshire Council revealed this week its plans to slash funding for rural buses.

The Greens claim it is 'an attack on rural residents in the predominantly rural county of Shropshire'.

The group added that the cuts are a 'savage attack on the young, the elderly, those who cannot afford a car and those who for health reasons cannot drive'.

And they claim the proposed changes will make living in rural Shropshire and accessing health care much more difficult than is currently the case and will undermine the choices that rural residents have around education, training and jobs as well as damage the rural economy.

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Co-ordinator of the South Shropshire Green Party, Hilary Wendt, said: “This is a slap in the face for all those who live in rural Shropshire and need to be able to access health care, education, training and jobs.

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"It reveals an astonishing lack of understanding of how people live in rural Shropshire and a disregard for climate change and the urgent need to reduce emissions of climate damaging CO2 from cars.

"I have asked Councillor Nutting, the leader of the Council, to withdraw the consultation with immediate effect and explore ways of providing additional funds to support rural buses.”

John Whitelegg, the lead person on transport in the South Shropshire Green Party and a transport expert added: “These cuts make an already sub-standard rural bus service much worse and the time has come to halt the bias towards the car in Shropshire and support best practice 21st century public transport.

"This “consultation” reveals a staggering disregard for public transport which will hit rural residents very hard indeed and add to climate change and congestion problems.”

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Congestion fears over price rises

Proposed Park and Ride price rises could increase traffic congestion and discourage people from visiting Shrewsbury’s town centre, according to the local BID group.

Shropshire Council is consulting on a range of changes to public transport fares, and Shrewsbury BID (Business Improvement District), which represents more than 500 town centre businesses, has criticised the proposed changes to Park and Ride fares.

The council is proposing to increase the main fare from £1.60 to £2, remove the group ticket that allows up to five people to travel for £2.50, and scrap the 50 per cent concessionary fare discount. The council says the fares have not been increased for a number of years, and the proposed £2 fare is in line with other Park and Ride services in the country.

But Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, said he was concerned about the proposals.

“We see an improved Park and Ride offer as being vital to providing easy access to the town centre, as well as being integral to the ongoing strategy of reducing traffic in the town,” he said.

“Ticket prices are a big factor for people, which was clearly demonstrated when the BID funded free travel on Wednesdays over Christmas which resulted in a 38 per cent increase in passenger numbers.

“Increasing the standard fare, removing the concessionary pass discount and removing the group ticket without improving the experience or service in any way would effectively incentivise people to drive into the town centre, and may even put them off visiting completely.

Counter-productive

“Removing the group ticket would clearly be at odds with the hierarchy of the new car parking strategy introduced in November.

“Without a group ticket, it would be cheaper for two adults to drive and park in some town centre car parks for a full day rather than using the Park and Ride, which would clearly be counter-productive to the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan’s aim of reducing town centre traffic.

“Furthermore, we think that student discounts should apply throughout the year not just in term time.”

Mr Slater said the BID had suggested alternative proposals to the council which would increase revenue for the service but still support the town centre and wider economic growth.

Shropshire Council launched a consultation this week asking for public opinion on changes to bus services across the county. The consultation will run until May 6.

As well as fares increasing on the Park and Ride service in Shrewsbury, a number of services will have their timetables changed and several will be withdrawn.

The service cuts have been put forward to save more than £405,000 per year.

News of the consultation has been met with dismay. Councillors in the south of the county have called for a rethink and have said that any changes to the 701 route in Ludlow would affect vulnerable people and those on a low income.

A headteacher in the north of Shropshire added that proposed change to the 576 Shrewsbury to Oswestry service would have a detrimental effect on students and the elderly and could cause many to become isolated.

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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