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Country areas need more private buses
A “COME and help us” plea for private sector bus operators to take over more routes in Worcestershire has been issued as more services face being phased out due to cuts.
Worcestershire County Council say it still spends £200,000 employing 14 drivers to provide a handful of routes across the county, without a single penny of private sector subsidy.
Six buses, containing between 20 and 50 seats, are still in operation across rural parts of Worcestershire with the tab picked up exclusively by taxpayers.
County Hall wants the remaining fleet to be either entirely funded, or to be part-funded privately, in common with the other routes across Worcestershire.
The six buses, which cross parts of south Worcestershire including Malvern, Pershore and Droitwich, helping people in hard-to-reach areas, took 600,000 passengers in the 2012-13 financial year.
Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member responsible for transport and highways, said he was desperate to see them handed over.
“We can’t afford to carry on subsidising them and are always looking for options to hand them to private operators,” he said. “We want to try and take this burden off the county council, and anything we can do to encourage the private sector to pick them up, we will do.
“Money is very tight at the moment.”
The stance came after Councillor Stephen Peters urged him to intervene during a full council meeting at County Hall. The authority is trying to push its e-tendering service, where private firms can go online and make bids to take over services.
Back in 2011, the council revealed plans to slash spending by cutting overall subsidies to bus routes by £2.5 million, more than half the £4m budget.
It led to 25 routes being scrapped from an original 130, but was revised down after a massive wave of objections. Pershore, Evesham, Pinvin, Stourport, Great Malvern, Tenbury Wells and Knightwick were just some of the affected areas.
Since then, County Hall has outlined plans to cut £20m from spending every year to 2017, due to worsening government grant funding and pressure on other services, like elderly care.
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