Lincolnshire County Council officials are scrambling to plug gaps in local provision left when a bus company pulls the plug on a number of its routes serving Sleaford area next month.
Midlands-based company Centrebus has announced changes to, and withdrawal of, services from its timetable and the County Council is currently exploring options to make up the shortfall.
Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transport, said: “I want to stress that these changes are in no way a result of council funding cuts.
“Centrebus decided to withdraw a number of commercial journeys in both Sleaford and Grantham, which has aligned with end-of-contract reviews for some of the services financially-supported by the county council.
“The council has continued supporting local bus services at the same financial level for over seven years, and it’s actually likely that this situation will result in extra being spent to keep some of the previously un-subsidised services running.”
In the announcement on Centrebus’ website, they state the Number 26 Grantham to Aslackby service is being withdrawn on April 7 following the end of the contract. Lincolnshire County Council says a replacement service via an alternative operator has been sought and expects no break in provision.
Services 33 (Bourne to Sleaford on Tuesdays), 36 (Sleaford to Boston on Wednesdays) and 44 (Boston to Sleaford) have been withdrawn by Centrebus from April 7 due to a ‘network review and low revenue income’. With council funding these services are likely to reduce to once a month.
Service 35 (Folkingham to Sleaford on Mondays) will end on April 7 due low passenger usage. The CallConnect service can be used in its place.
The Service 27 (Grantham to Sleaford) will operate on a reduced timetable due to low income.
Latest Department for Transport figures show local bus passenger journeys in England have fallen by 1.6 per cent in the last year.
Independent county councillor for Bassingham and Welbourn Division, Marianne Overton said: “These figures reflect the downward spiral of decline in bus journeys, which drives the fare increases which exacerbates cuts to bus services.
“Councils want to protect the bus services which provide a vital service for our communities and are a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents.
“Councils have been forced to reduce or scale back these services and review subsidised routes, and even reduce spending on other vital services to plug the gap.
She urged government to hand councils control of the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, and properly fund national free bus pass schemes, to help us maintain essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.