STUDENT BUS FARES SET TO DOUBLE

By Richard Wright

Friday, March 14, 2008

 

JUST when the Island’s 50p Student Rider transport ticket is being held up as a national model, it looks set to double in price.

The IW Council cabinet is expected to ratify the rise on Wednesday, as part of a deal with Southern Vectis.

Transport cabinet member Cllr Tim Hunter-Henderson said: “We spend many millions of pounds a year supporting concessionary fare schemes, but we have to do this in a realistic way.

“We feel the £1 fare still represents tremendous value when compared to full fares. It is also the first increase in the Student Rider fare since the scheme began in 2005.”

The rise comes as consultation by the National Children’s Bureau considers funding a study of the Island’s Student Rider with a view to starting similar schemes throughout the country.

As part of an eleventh-hour deal between the council and Southern Vectis, many early morning and evening bus services that were not viable to run without subsidy have been saved.

But the hurried timeframe for the talks, which meant many routes could not be included in the March timetable, led to an unprecedented attack from the IW Bus Users’ Group.

The IW Council is shortly to launch consultation to gain travellers’ views on which services should be supported after September 27 when the deal runs out.

Southern Vectis and the council are to join forces in highlighting flaws in the national concessionary bus fare scheme. Southern Vectis is likely to appeal against the subsidy level.

Cllr Hunter-Henderson said: “Both parties accept each other’s views on this issue, but Southern Vectis has to satisfy its shareholders and the council has to ensure best value for money for the council tax payer. Together there is the feeling government needs to address the issue and find a solution that does not disadvantage the bus companies or the council.

• Some of the cuts are to be introduced on Sunday and others on April 20. They include:

All night services are reduced, except Fridays and Saturdays; Route 2 Newport/ Godshill/ Shanklin/ Sandown/ Brading/ Ryde is axed; Route 4 East Cowes/ Whippingham/ Wootton/ Ryde early mornings and Sunday evening withdrawn; Route 6 Ventor to Newport loses last bus; Route 14 Ryde to Bembridge cut to hourly; Route 15 Haylands to Ryde amalgamated into Route 4; Route 16 Ryde to Seaview and Route 22 Sandown to Shanklin reduced to hourly; Route 39 Newport to Pan Estate Southern Vectis service withdrawn.

• Southern Vectis this week announced job losses.

Blaming rocketing fuel costs and a reduction in revenue, as a result of changes to concessionary fares reimbursement levels from the IW Council brought about by revised guidance from the Department for Transport, the company said it was consulting with individual staff members and the RMT union.

Southern Vectis said it was re-structuring its business and that was likely to involve support staff redundancies.

A statement said: “A number of affected staff have been informed their positions may be redundant and the company is now working to try and find alternative roles where possible.”

Southern Vectis has not said how many jobs will go but it is thought to be in single figures.

• More on Island buses in the Friday, March 14, County Press.

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