Devon County Council Bus cuts

During the 12 week consultation period on proposed bus service cuts planned by Devon County Council I signed a Change petition on calling on DCC to:
– Withdraw proposals which affect travel to and from education and work and reconsider those which affect a high number of passengers and services.
– Talk to bus operators about the viability of their whole business as a result of the proposed cuts and work with bus operators to plan cost effective changes – increase passenger numbers or plan alternative routes and timetables in consultation with communities.
– Invest in priority measures which make the bus a more attractive and faster option for travellers. This can include more bus lanes, which operate for longer, and priority signalling. Such measures make services more commercially viable.
– Invest in more community run bus services, such as Bob the Bus in Totnes. These services can be more flexible and feed into the main bus network.

On Friday I received an update:

Devon County Council was overwhelmed by the huge response to proposed £1,762m a year cuts to the Public Transport budget. The Council received some 2,600 questionnaire responses, numerous letters and petitions, of which one of the largest this one organised by Exeter Green Party, backed by 379 people. The public’s response to Devon County Council’s proposed cuts which has resulted in a reduction to some of the proposed cuts.

However, while there has been a brake on some of the service cuts, the revised plans still have a significant impact on communities, affecting 170,000 passenger journeys across Devon and here in Exeter. It’s a great relief the cut to the evening service for the P bus is no longer proposed. But other services in Exeter are still affected. We are especially concerned the Council plans to continue slashing school bus services, such as the one which takes children to the Stoke Hill schools, and other City service reductions will only add to congestion in Exeter.

Exeter Green Party have especially campaigned against the cuts to City services. We welcome the news that the planned withdrawal of the P evening service is now proposed for continuation and that free concessionary travel after 11pm at night will continue.

However, the proposals will see reductions across the City. These include a reduction to withdrawal of the frequency of the D service during University Vacations. However, Stagecoach have now agreed to operate a half-hourly frequency on Saturday’s on a commercial basis.

Plans to withdraw the T service from Countess Wear to Topsham Quay have been changed to recommend a shopping-time service (0930 out; 1230 back from City Centre) on an interim basis. The U service is proposed to be reduced to three journeys giving a morning shopping service and the M to retain two journeys. The Council hopes a community transport replacement service will be developed for the T and the U/M services.

These proposed cuts are a result of the austerity measures already proposed by the last Government. It is deeply worrying that the new conservative Government has already begun a further assault on funding to Local Authorities. Devon County Council’s report on the revised cuts itself shows how older people, young people and people with disabilities really rely on such services. As the report pointed out reducing bus services would increase traffic levels and carbon emissions too. We need investment in our transport infrastructure here in Exeter to support our most vulnerable, reduce congestion and address the City’s ongoing pollution problem.

You can find the Report on the Consultation the report to Cabinet and the details of the proposed cuts here

What happens next?

The report is being considered by Devon County Council’s Cabinet next week after which it will be referred to a Scrutiny committee to examine the plans before going back to the Cabinet again who will make the final decision.

While the proposals have been reigned back the proposals still contain significant cuts and the Council have already agreed a cut to the budget, so – so we must keep up the pressure on the Council to let them know that we’re not happy with their plans and see if we can secure a further climb down before the report completes this process.

What you can do:
Come along to County Hall before the Cabinet or Scrutiny meetings, bring your friends and a placard to send a message to the Council. Join me outside or attend the meeting. The dates and times are:

Cabinet Wednesday 10th June 10:30am – the item is first on the agenda. Be there for 10:00am outside County Hall.

Place Scrutiny Committee: 2pm 17th June – meet outside at 2:00

Cabinet Meeting Wednesday 8th July 10:30 – meet outside at 10am

Write or ring your local County Councillor and let them know you’re not happy with the report and the affect of the cuts. You can find out who your local Councillor is here:

#DevonPTR15 | Devon County Council Public Transport Review

It’s interesting reading the preamble accompanying Devon County Council’s recently announced Public Transport Review 2015.

The opening paragraph reads:
To help meet the £50 million budget reduction required by Government spending cuts next year, we now face making savings of £1.7m from our annual public transport budget.
which could be amended to read:
To help meet the £50 million budget CUT required by Government spending CUTS next year, we now face making CUTS of £1.7m from our annual public transport budget.”

The document goes on to suggest that there are 3 options:
– making savings by changing services
– change the way in which services are provided
– increase charges for services rather than entirely taking them away

Yet when they say they need your help, they say:
We would like to find out what you think about our proposals to reduce services“.

Indeed, more than that they emphasise this by stating:
It will be the first time that we have proposed making service reductions for four years.”

To me, a better option would be to look at the way in which services are provided.

The current dialogue appears to be a negative one, as what seems to be proposed by  DCC is a ‘managed decline’ in bus services in Exeter and beyond.

An open and positive dialogue with the bus operators could lead to a better grasp of what a strategic bus network might look like, including examining new routes and altering some existing routes.

Since DCC hasn’t provided any options, I’m going to look at some strategic changes to routes and/or services than might enable more of our  vulnerable communities to be provided with some buses in the evening and on Sundays.