Oxfordshire launches transport pilot as bus subsidy cuts bite


At least two fifths of supported bus routes in Oxfordshire will end after the county council removes subsidies next month.

The council said that out of 118 routes, operators would continue 56 (47%) in some form while 49 routes (42%) would be discontinued.

It said it has yet to hear from two operators about the remaining 13 routes.


In February the council confirmed plans to end all subsidies for bus services that are not commercially viable in order to save £3.7m.

Despite additional central government funding, councillors decided at a further meeting in March to make the cuts but to delay implementation until the end of the school summer term.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: ‘We welcome the positive response that we have had from bus operators. It is good news that around half of services will continue, with the majority involving an amended service whether that be a revised timetable or changing the frequency of a route.’

Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport's chief executive, said removal of all funding for subsidised bus routes was ‘a sad day for local people’ and warned that the continuation of some services could be ‘simply a stay of execution’.

He added: ‘The Government recently announced a buses bill, which is set to transform how bus services operate in some parts of the country, unfortunately this will do very little for rural areas like Oxfordshire. We are still waiting to see how the Government intends to stop the death of the rural bus and prevent whole areas of the countryside becoming public transport deserts.’

Last month Oxfordshire approved the launch of what it called ‘an innovative pilot scheme’ that will offer a pre-paid bookable transport service to ‘a broad spectrum of users ranging from groups of teenagers to individual elderly people’.

It plans ‘to utilise the downtime of some of the county council’s 16-seater mini-bus fleet during off-peak times and offer journeys to anyone without suitable access to transport’.

A council report explained that: ‘The intention is for the pilot service to be funded by users, covering our costs but on a not-for-profit basis.’

To establish the service, including pump-priming, the council is using £460,000 of Bus Services Operators Grant, having checked with the Department for Transport that this can be used for community transport purposes.

Cllr Hudspeth said: ‘The intention is to launch our innovative affordable transport pilot ahead of the termination of bus subsidies on July 20. Further work is currently under way to develop this service, which is a completely new way of operating council owned vehicles.’


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