Rural bus subsidies may yet be saved

County Coun Paul Hayhurst
County Coun Paul Hayhurst

Public transport campaigners and politicians were today waiting for further details over apparent plans to throw Lancashire’s subsidised bus services a 12- month lifeline.

County Coun John Fillis, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, has revealed he is considering extending the council’s tendered public bus service contracts for a further 12 months – until March 31, 2018.

The council says its is “allowing more time to explore and evaluate potential alternative public transport solutions.” The move would end uncertainty for residents across Lancashire about the future of many local bus services a period of controversial cuts.

Today, Chorley County Coun Mark Perks said he would be delighted to learn more – and was puzzled why the announcement had just been made.

He said the proposed axeing of the subsidies given to bus firms to save costs had “obvious flaws” in it from the outset. He said of the apparent rethink: “I’m puzzled as to why this has happened now. Why has this been done now – if there were other options why weren’t they explored right at the start? Where is the money coming from?”

Fylde West independent county councillor Paul Hayhurst who is chairman of the Cabinet Working Group for Bus Services said he would not be surprised to see the subsidies continue but did not expect there to be more money to increase the number of routes.

He said: “I know from being on the working group how important bus services are to the rural community.Many people depend on them and without them we would see isolation in the rural areas.

“I will be lobbying John to keep the subsidies to make sure we keep the busses as they are.”

Lancaster-based County Coun Gina Dowding said today: “I think it is essential that the current support given to bus services across the county now remains in place – not just for another year.

“Many people, in rural communities in particular, are dependent on services for work, study and vital trips.

Coun Fillis said this week: “I have asked officers to continue looking at alternative ways of delivering public transport in the county and I will consider whether to extend funding for the existing LCC tendered bus service for a further 12 months to allow that to happen.”

A decision is expected on December 8.