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Calls for end to bus cuts after 10-year low in passenger numbers

PUBLISHED: 19:30 09 May 2019

Councillor Jack Owen has called on Suffolk County Council to stop cuts to bus services across the county as usage hits a 10-year low. Picture: ARCHANT

Councillor Jack Owen has called on Suffolk County Council to stop cuts to bus services across the county as usage hits a 10-year low. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

A plea has been made for cuts to lifeline bus services to be stopped after figures revealed funding had been reduced by 59% over a decade.

New figures from Suffolk County Council show that since 2008/09, funding for bus subsidies has fallen by more than £2.5million - from £4.31m in 2008/09 to £1.75m today.

The number of journeys taken by passengers on buses in Suffolk has fallen from 17.9million in 2009/10 to 14.9million in 2017/18. This includes an 18% drop in passenger numbers from 2016/17 to 2017/18.

Labour's spokesman for highways, transport and rural affairs on Suffolk County Council, Jack Owen, used the opportunity to call for the Conservative administration to end cuts to bus services.

However, the Conservative-led council has said financial pressure has forced councillors to reduce funding.

Councillor Mary Evans, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural AffairsCouncillor Mary Evans, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs

The councillor for Sudbury said: "It is little wonder that bus usage has fallen so dramatically after such brutal cuts to public transport in Suffolk.

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"The cuts are causing the slow death of bus services in the county, with fares going up and the number of routes operating diminishing every year.

"The sad reality is that the impact will be felt most by the poorest families in rural areas where unaffordable and unreliable public transport links make it hard to find and hold onto full-time employment.

Cllr Jack Owen has called for Suffolk County Council to end cuts to bus services. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCllr Jack Owen has called for Suffolk County Council to end cuts to bus services. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"It also limits educational opportunities for young people and further isolates our elderly population. The human, social and economic cost of these cuts is immense."

Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for highways, transport and rural issues, said: "While there has been a drop in passenger numbers for Suffolk, this has been a trend nationally.

"There are many factors that could have contributed to the decrease in passenger numbers such as the increase in online shopping and shift towards working from home.

"Like other transport authorities, we are under significant financial pressure and this has resulted in a reduction in bus subsidies.

"In the 2019/2020 budget we have pledged a further £200,000 towards developing community transport."

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