Plea to retain ‘greatest benefit’ buses in West Sussex

A ‘priority list’ of bus services of most benefit to West Sussex people was approved by a county council select committee.

The plea is to continue these if possible or consider them again at a later stage, when cuts are made in subsidies for services which are not commercially viable.

The plan is to reduce the £4.7m in subsidies by £2m over three years – accounting for around two million of the 24 million journeys made on the county’s bus network every year.

Final decisions on where the axe should fall will be made by Lionel Barnard, deputy leader of the council, with responsibility for highways and transport.

A cross-party working group formed to consider how best to approach the cuts came up with the list of services of most benefit, and this was supported by the strategic environmental services select committee.

It comprises services which:

- Carry people the county council has a legal duty to support, such as eligible schoolchildren.

- Service isolated rural communities.

- Are in areas where there are no alternatives.

- Help to maintain access to key services such as hospitals, shopping and work at appropriate times of day.

The working group suggested services for possible cuts in the first phase, including those that provide Sunday and evening services after 6.30pm, are primarily aimed at non-eligible children travelling to school and which carry relatively-few passengers.

Chairman Duncan Crow said the reason this matter was brought to the committee was to have a look at the overall strategic approach. He did not want members to get bogged down in detailed discussion about individual routes.

The committee was told an impact assessment was now being carried out.

Cllr Nigel Dennis said the county council was looking at individual routes when it should be looking at the network of public transport services. There might be alternative routes in some cases.

“We need to take a step back and take a more strategic view – to try to make sure there is a basic level of service to local communities,” he declared.

Transport service manager Andy Ekinsmyth said the vast majority of the bus network in West Sussex was commercial, and would not be affected by the reductions.