Forty-nine of Oxfordshire’s subsidised bus services are set to be scrapped in July after the County Council cut back funding.
This leaves fifty-six other routes which will be taken over by commercial organisations and, in many cases, amended.
The affected services amount to 9% of all bus routes in Oxfordshire; the remainder did not require subsidies. The Council have argued that these cuts will save £3.7 million and are being made to services which are not commercially viable.
The move follows an announcement in November that local government money for bus services would be scaled back after Central Government reduced the Council’s budget.
The largest provider of the subsidised services, Thames Travel, will cut 13 of its 27 routes; some of the remainder will be run on what the company calls a six-month “use it or lose it” basis. Stagecoach has announced a reduction of 11, leaving 11 routes. 28 services run by other companies will be stopped.
The managing director of Thames Travel, Phil Southall, said: “We’re really sorry about the impact that these withdrawals will have on the lives of those who rely on the services and would encourage those who are able to use our remaining services to give the bus a try and help us to make the services sustainable for the longer term.”
The managing director of Stagecoach Oxfordshire, Martin Sutton, said: “Following the disappointing news that the Oxfordshire County Council was ending its contracts for non-commercial bus services in Oxfordshire, we wanted to do everything we could to support our passengers, and avoid their day-to-day lives being affected.” He continued: “We regret that we are unable to provide alternatives on contracted routes where income from fare paying passengers is too low to meet running costs.”
Some local residents are unhappy with these cuts and fear that more may follow. Hugh Jaeger, chairman of Bus Users Oxford, said “We welcome the efforts of businesses to save as many routes as possible. But our fear is, with a number of routes across Oxfordshire, that in nine to 18 months’ time they will end up saying they tried their best but are still losing money.”
For the elderly and disabled, the upcoming changes may make travelling much more difficult. County Cllr Jean Fooks (Lib. Dem.), of Wolvercote and Summertown, told The Oxford Times that “Some people have said to me that because of this change you might as well lock their door and throw away the key.”
The Conservative leader of the County Council Ian Hudspeth said that the Council was working with bus companies “minimise the impact” these cuts will have. He commented: “we would all prefer not to be making any cuts at all but have been working closely with Thames Travel to progress measures to minimise the impact on local communities.” He said that it was “positive” that half of the bus routes will still be running and said that the Council is looking into running a mini-cab-based “affordable, flexible door-to-door transport service”.
The services to be stopped are: 8, 17, 18, 24, 25, 33, 37, 42, 43, 43, 44, 46, 63, 85, 86, 89, 90, 90, 95, 97, 104, 125, 126, 135, 213, 214, 215, 218, 277, 504, 811, 17A, 17C, 44A, 67A, 67B, 67C, 81A, A1, B1, B7, C1, K3, M1, T2, T94, V1 , V14, V24, V24, W10, W11, and W12. This includes a number of Oxford–Abingdon and Oxford–Bicester routes, services from Cutteslowe and Marston to the city centre, and the evening and Sunday buses from Oxford Station to the John Radcliffe Hospital.