Headlines: July 12th, 2010

Local authorities, bus operators, transport campaigners and unions are warning today that Britain’s local bus networks are at risk from Beeching-style cuts if the Government withdraws direct national funding as part of its spending review. They have written to the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, and claim there will be big fare rises, services cuts and job losses if the Bus Service Operators Grant is scrapped.

The campaigners fear a decision to cut BSOG, which rebates bus operators for the fuel duty they pay in running local registered bus services, could be made in weeks. The grant also covers many rural, school and socially important services. Letters have been sent to all 533 MPs and an Early Day Motion supporting retention of the grant has been laid down in Parliament.

The letter to MPs warns of fares rising by 10 per cent overnight and a similar cut in commercial bus services, which would be most acute in rural areas. Transport authorities and local councils, whose budgets have already been cut, would be unable to make up the funding shortfall, the letter says. All local-authority-subsidised services would become unprofitable it claims.

Stephen Joseph, the Executive Director of Campaign for Better Transport, a co-signatory to the letter, said: “Scrapping BSOG could do for Britain’s buses today what Beeching did for the UK rail network in the 1960s. In many areas, it could tip buses into a spiral of decline with fare rises, falling patronage and service cuts, all with impacts on some of the poorest in society.”