Dear Ben Bradshaw MP,
I am very concerned about continued cuts to bus services. Following significant cuts to Local Authority funding from central Government, according to the Campaign for Better Transport in 2014/15 50 per cent of local authorities have cut funding for supported bus services. This has meant almost 500 services and routes have been cut or withdrawn completely, leaving many people cut off.
These bus services are a crucial lifeline for many people, but especially those of us who are either older, younger, disabled, seeking a job or on a low income.
Continuing to cut these services would not only greatly impoverish us, but also harm the economy as a whole. More people commute to work on buses than all other modes of public transport combined. For every £1 spent on buses they generate between £3 and £5 in wider economic benefits. Cutting buses is a false economy.
Buses are a key issue for millions of people and buses really must be given the political recognition from Members of Parliament that they deserve.
This year looks like it will be even worse than last for bus cuts, with over £10 million already earmarked to be cut by local authorities across the country. I want to call on you as my MP to recognise the importance of our buses and tell me what you and your party will do to stand up and speak up for buses in the coming weeks and months.
At the beginning of the week, Devon County Council announced a consultation that will cover 5 supported services in Exeter: D, U, M, P and T.
You are aware that the P service serves Cowick ward.
Since the route of the P avoids the GP surgery that looks after the health of the Cowick residents, it is thought by many not to function as suitable public transport – it certainly doesn’t serve their needs.
The proposals seek to withdraw evening and Sunday service to the P bus – meaning that the last evening service from the city centre to Cowick will leave the High Street at 2012 (on Sunday this will be 1712).
The 2011 census shows Cowick has the 2nd highest ward (out of the 18 in Exeter) of residents over the age of 65 and 3rd highest of those in bad or vey bad health. And 1 in 4 households in the ward do not own a car.
So for those without access to a car, or chose not to own one, or who cannot drive, or cannot afford a car, a bus service is key to a decent quality of life: with fewer buses, or none at all, journeys may not be made at all.
I’m not sure if you have read the report from the IPPR thinktank, Greasing the Wheels: Supporting and Improving Britain’s Rail and Bus Services?
It highlights that the poorest make more than three times as many trips a year by bus as the richest.
But while car ownership is nearly universal among wealthier people, only 30% of households in the poorest income decile own a vehicle. Poorer groups therefore rely on bus services or have to take taxis.
The report shows that the poorest fifth of households take more taxi journeys per year than any other income group – largely due to the unavailability, unreliability and high fares of their local buses.
Withdrawing the evening and Sunday services will only increase the social isolation of these vulnerable categories as they become even more housebound by these plans.
I look forward to your response.