Under-threat Shropshire bus services get temporary rescue as council awaits Government funding decision

Under threat subsidised bus services in rural Shropshire have been temporarily saved just before the money was due to run out.

Photo: Shropshire Council
Photo: Shropshire Council

Shropshire Council hopes that it will win a bid for levelling-up funding from the Government to keep services running after March 2023.

In March 2022, the council agreed to support – until at least September 2022 – a number of both commercial and subsidised services that Arriva and other operators wanted to amend or withdraw because of a fall in the number of fare-paying passengers.

The last minute injection of around £600,000 of funding from the Department for Transport's revenue support fund means the services will be able to continue operating until at least March 2023, though with revised timetables on some routes.

These include the routes between Shrewsbury and Bishop's Castle, Shrewsbury and Ludlow, Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth, and the number 20 service in Radbrook Green.

A council spokesman said: "It’s hoped that by next March the outcome of the council’s bid for levelling-up funding will be known, and a further update provided about the long-term future of these services."

Councillor Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for public transport, said: “Whilst finding any additional funding to support bus services within Shropshire is extremely difficult in the current financial climate, I’m pleased that we are able to extend our support for these services which will ensure they continue to operate until the end of March.

"We’re hopeful that by this time the outcome of our levelling-up bid will be known and we will understand what funding will be available from Government in the future.

“We will also continue to lobby Government with our bus operators for the funding that we need to make bus services a realistic option as a first choice of travel across Shropshire.

A new cross-party group of Shropshire Councillors is now meeting regularly to discuss and consider ways to improve public transport in the council area.

Ludlow indpendent Councillor Andy Boddington, a bus user himself, said "This good news for passengers and for keeping bus services going. Once they go, they are hard to get back.

"The survival of the Ludlow Knighton service (738/740) has been of concern for some while.

"But its passengers numbers are now picking up, with 27 people on the first bus into Ludlow this morning. That's good numbers for a rural bus service. It is vital that this inter-town service going from Wales across Herefordshire into Shropshire and picking up at a lot of villages, survives.

"Passenger numbers on Ludlow's town services have also picked up post-pandemic. We have got back to buses like they used to be.

"Although passenger in some areas are down, the crippling issue for rural bus companies is the cost of fuel. They are in a catch 22. If they raise fares, fewer people will use buses. But they cannot run at a loss. That is why this funding from Shropshire Council is very welcome."

The services that have received support since March, and that will continue to receive support, are:

  • 9 – Wolverhampton to Bridgnorth

  • 20 – Radbrook Green

  • 21 – Reabrook

  • 544/546 – Little Lyth and Pulverbatch

  • 738/740 – Ludlow to Knighton

  • 552/553 – Shrewsbury to Bishops Castle

  • 435 – Shrewsbury to Ludlow

  • 125 – Highley to Bridgnorth

  • 64 – Market Drayton to Shrewsbury (Saturdays)

  • 701 – Ludlow Town

  • 745A/B – Pontesbury, Clun, Bishops Castle, Lydbury North area.

  • 558 – Montgomery to Shrewsbury

The new timetables will remain in place.

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