Bus services could be protected following public consultation

A number of key bus routes in Somerset could be protected following a comprehensive public consultation which saw hundreds of bus users have their say.

Somerset County Council asked members of the public for their views on a number of potential changes to bus services at the end of last year. More than 1,300 people took part and the Council has used their feedback to put together a final proposal which will now go to a Cabinet vote on 8 February.

Following the consultation and after considering the impact of any changes, the County Council is now proposing not to withdraw funding from the following services:

51 Stoke St. Gregory – Taunton. Saturday Services

414/424 Frome – Midsomer Norton. Saturday Services

669 Shepton Mallet – Street. Saturday Services

1 Yeovil – Shepton Mallet. Saturday Services

667 Wincanton – Street. Saturday Services

29 Street – Taunton. Monday-Saturday

38 Huish Episcopi extension. Monday-Friday.

The consultation also included discussions with operators at which they indicated they may be prepared to continue or take on running three other services on a commercial basis.

The number 6 Bridgwater Town Service has been running commercially since 11 January, with an enhanced service including Saturdays.

Changes are still proposed to 13 bus services where alternative transport provision is available in most cases.

The proposals would save nearly £500,000 and come as the County Council looks to bridge a budget gap of around £27m to balance its budget for 2016/17. This is because Government funding is falling and demand for council services is rising.

If the proposed changes are agreed, Somerset County Council would still be spending £1.5m on bus subsidies in the next financial year.

Cllr David Fothergill, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to our consultation. Your views really do matter and I’m pleased we’ve been able to adapt our proposals to protect some of the routes which were most important to you.

“Please let me stress again that the decision to remove any funding for public transport is not taken lightly. I’d rather we weren’t in this position, but with our funding from Government continuing to fall we are having to look closely at all areas of spending, even important services like buses.”

Somerset County Council’s Cabinet will now consider the proposals before taking a decision on 8 February. This decision is also subject to Full Council approving the 2016/17 budget later in February.