WEEKEND AND NIGHT BUSES UNDER THREAT

By Richard Wright

Friday, January 25, 2008

 

EVENING, night and Sunday bus services could be axed almost completely as wrangles continue between the IW Council and Southern Vectis over subsidies and concessionary fares.

Time is ticking away with only days for agreement to be reached. There is also no agreement on the level of council concessionary support for over-60s bus passes and Student Riders.

IW Bus Users Group secretary Don Vincent said: “Members reacted with shock and disbelief at our AGM on Saturday.

“Southern Vectis has placed a registration with Traffic Commissioners, which has no evening services on routes from Sunday, March 16.

“We are trying to arrange a meeting with council officials and just hope something can be rescued — even at this late stage.

“We have already had concerns expressed by people, including nurses, who rely on buses currently run on subsidies from the council.”

Southern Vectis operations manager Marc Morgan Huws said his company had so far been met with a council wall of silence.

IW Council director of environment and neighbourhoods Stuart Love said there had been previous discussions and the authority was waiting for the bus firm to first publish its proposals before reacting.

The increase in passenger numbers was largely driven by the council’s free and concessionary fares schemes which drove loss-making routes into profit.

IW Council cabinet member for the environment and transport Cllr Tim Hunter-Henderson said: “All these issues come back to the principle that while we are pleased more people are using bus services we must weigh up the cost of subsidies.”

Mr Morgan Huws said: “Despite arranging to meet with us to discuss bus services when he first took his Cabinet position, Cllr Hunter-Henderson has never met with us or discussed any issues.

“Once the council cuts fare reimbursement to us, services become uneconomic again.

“Because of the wall of silence from the council we have had to assume there will be no subsidised contracted journeys.

“We have therefore been planning our staff levels on that scenario.

“There is a point, and that will come within a week, when we simply can’t accommodate any tendered services and where all our timetables will have gone to print.”

• If there is no agreement, existing concessionary fare arrangements will continue until the issue is resolved at appeal but there will be no Southern Vectis buses on subsidised routes.

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