Some Sunday and evening bus services could be axed to save money, council reveals
Some Sunday and evening bus services could be withdrawn or reduced as part of plans to reshape the Essex bus network, it has been revealed.
Essex County Council is set to consult on its supported bus services – including those relating to journeys after 10pm Monday to Friday and from 11pm on Saturdays.
The consultation is set to include dropping the frequency of buses on Sundays to a two-hourly service between 8am and 7pm.
Those Sunday services that could be affected include the 351 between Chelmsford and Brentwood and the 71C between Chelmsford and Colchester.
The 12-week consultation covering all 59 evening and Sunday bus services currently provided under contract to Essex County Council (ECC) will also look how it can re-shape the local bus network and how more can be devolved to communities and their representatives.
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An extension of a total of 62 contracts that are due to expire in March or July 2019 for an additional 12 months is being planned to allow for a full consultation to be undertaken before a subsequent procurement is undertaken for those services.
Across Essex there are around 41million passenger journeys annually, of which 2.8 million are on the supported network.
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Of those, 500,000 passenger journeys take place on evenings and 300,000 on Sundays.
Essex County Council cabinet member Ray Gooding said: “At present we spend around £9m of taxpayers’ money on these services each year.
“However with the number of passengers in some cases falling below six per journey, coupled with the strong financial pressure on all local government funding, means that we have to look very carefully at how we provide our services to ensure that the limited funding available is focused where it will do most good and where the local communities need it.
“We know that buses are important to many people. The consultation is the opportunity to have your say on our proposals.”
Liberal Democrat county councillor Stephen Robinson said: “This illustrates the depth of the funding crisis facing local government.
“On buses in particular, given our desire to reduce congestion, reduce pollution and to reduce social isolation, this is a retrograde step to be cutting these services which are a vital life line for many people.”