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Revealed: 1,500 bus routes scrapped in cuts across Midlands

By Peter Madeley | Transport | Published:

The West Midlands has lost more than 1,500 bus routes over five years, new figures have revealed.

National Express scrapped the 154 route after funding was pulled by businesses

According to the Traffic Commissioner’s annual report, the region saw 320 routes scrapped last year, meaning 1,527 local routes have gone since 2012-13.

The move has caused misery for pensioners and people living in rural areas, and appears to fly in the face of a region-wide push to encourage more people to use public transport.

Why have the routes been axed?

Factors including rising car use and cuts to public spending are blamed for the significant drop in routes, which has been branded ‘hugely concerning’ by campaigners.

Among the routes to go recently include the 154, which operated between Wolverhampton and Hednesford through the i54 business park but was ditched by National Express in January after funding was pulled.

And bus operator Arriva cut all Sunday bus services in Cannock and Stafford in April after funding was axed by Staffordshire County Council.

The authority said some journeys were costing taxpayers £10 a time, which was ‘simply not sustainable’.

The figures show that 346 routes went in 2012-13, with another 320 going the following year and 316 being scrapped in 2014-15.

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In 2015-16, the region lost a total of 225 bus routes.

Reaction from campaigners

Kevin Chapman, a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Transport in the West Midlands, said the vast majority of the lost routes involve buses that serve rural communities.

“When the local bus service goes this often results in people in these areas becoming more isolated,” he said.

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“We are faced with a nasty cocktail of reduced funding for councils and operators cutting routes, while in the middle of it all we have vulnerable people who may rely on the bus to get out and about.

“They can either get a taxi – which can cost a lot of money – or they are left isolated.”

Mr Chapman said he wanted to see local authorities ‘thinking outside the box’ and working more closely with operators to provide sustainable bus services.

Lib Dem campaigner Layla Abbes said: “This is nothing short of a national scandal.

“The Government have decimated communities up and down the country, and as a final kick in the teeth, they have slashed nearly 1500 bus routes which are a such a lifeline for so many to be able to get to work, school and hospital in the Black Country.”

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said the decrease in routes was ‘hugely concerning’.

“Buses provide a vital service for our communities and a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents to go shopping, pick up medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends,” he added.

Across the country almost 17,000 bus routes have gone over five years, while the Campaign for Better Transport says there has been a £182m cut (45 per cent) in local authority supported bus services since 2010.

Over eight years fares have risen by 13 per cent more than inflation since 2010.

However, buses are still by far the country’s most popular form of public transport, with 4.65 billion bus journeys a year – two and half times more than train journeys.

The issue was recently raised in the House of Commons by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who accused the Government of failing over bus services.

Department for Transport response

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Buses connect people, homes and businesses and that’s why we’ve given councils extra powers to work in partnership with bus companies to improve the service passengers expect and deserve.

“Long-term social and economic factors are affecting levels of bus usage.

“But to encourage it and improve journeys for passengers, we provide around £250 million to support bus services every year.

“This benefits people up and down the country and supports the nearly 10 million older and disabled people in England who get free off-peak bus travel.”

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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