Somerset residents who use bus services subsidised by Somerset County Council are being urged to have their say on proposed changes to routes and concessionary fares.
Two separate consultations have opened today (Monday 9 November) and will close on Monday 11 January 2016. If approved, they will come into effect in Spring 2016.
The proposals come as the council works to bridge a budget gap of around £27m to balance its budget for 2016/17 as funding falls and demand for services rises.
All the routes below receive a public subsidy and have been identified for change because:
- The current service has a low level of passenger use
- Other transport services are available on other days of the week
- There are alternative services on offer in close proximity
- Alternative commercial services may be available in that area in the future.
The services being consulted on are:
1: Yeovil – Shepton Mallet (Saturday service only)
6: Bridgwater Town Service
16: Langport – Bridgwater (Saturday service only)
20: Seaton – Taunton
22: Tiverton/Cullompton – Taunton
25: Taunton – Dulverton
29: Wells – Street – Taunton
33: Wincanton – Frome
38: Huish Episcopi Extension
40: Bridport – Yeovil (Saturday service only)
51: Stoke St. Gregory – Taunton (Saturday service only)
53/58: Warminster/Westbury – Frome (Saturday service only)
67: Burnham-on-Sea – Wookey Hole
81: South Petherton – Yeovil
99: Chard – Yeovil
113: Highbridge – Berrow
158: Wincanton – Shaftesbury (Saturday service only)
198: Minehead – Dulverton
414/424: Frome – Midsomer Norton (Saturday service only)
667: Wincanton – Street
668: Shipham – Street
669: Shepton Mallet – Street (Saturday service only)
776: Shepton Mallet – Midsomer Norton
N9: Martock – Yeovil
N10C: Stanchester School – Taunton
In a separate consultation, also launched today, the County Council is asking for views on changes to its Discretionary Bus Pass Policy. Somerset residents using the concessionary bus pass (English National Concessionary Travel Scheme or ENCTS) currently receive an additional local discretionary concession of up to 50% on the cost of the fare when using community transport.
If changes are made, this concession would reduce to 25% of the fare. ENCTS Bus Pass holders would also no longer be able to travel for free between 9am and 9.30am on public and community transport services, including car schemes, and the Council would no longer offer free companion travel.
The County Council, like many local authorities, faces major challenges in balancing its budget from 2016/17 and beyond. Between 2014/15 and 2019/20, the Council’s direct funding from central Government is expected to have fallen by around £63m against its current annual budget of around £315m.
At the same time, inflation is pushing up costs, while demand for services, particularly social care services, is rising as Somerset’s population grows and becomes more elderly. All this means the authority is having to seriously review its transport funding for the future.
The results of both consultations will be presented to Somerset County Council’s Cabinet and will be used to assist Councillors on reaching a decision.
Cllr David Fothergill, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Having to consider drastically reducing the Council’s funding for bus services is incredibly tough and we do not take it at all lightly. We have worked hard to protect this funding for as long as possible, and it is a real and raw sign of the financial times that we face increasingly more difficult decisions about the services we can afford to provide.
“I urge anyone affected by these proposals to take part in these consultations and have their say. All the results will be considered before any decisions are made.”
Printed versions of both consultations are also available. Please phone Somerset Direct on 0300 123 2224 for more information.