Area avoids worst of bus cuts
ST AUSTELL and the surrounding areas have escaped the worst of the bus service cuts announced by the county's two main providers.
Summercourt-based Western Greyhound and First Devon and Cornwall announced on Friday which Cornish services were to change from November 3.
The services are subsidised by Cornwall Council, which says it must reduce its bus budget by around £500,000 in this financial year.
The main changes affecting St Austell include the withdrawal of the last Sunday journey on the 520 service between Truro and St Austell, although the 522 will make additional runs into Truro.
It has also been announced that the 521 Sunday service between Newquay and St Austell will be reduced from hourly to two-hourly, but the 522 will partially compensate for this change.
A new Sunday service will be introduced on the 522 St Austell-Nanpean-Grampound-Truro service and certain journeys will run to St Austell Station.
The 524/5/6 service will be improved to run every half an hour between Fowey and Mevagissey/Heligan via St Austell Station. This will partially replace First's 27 service, which will no longer run to St Blazey or Par. However, no journeys will run beyond Heligan to Gorran.
St Austell's mayor Steve Double said it was vital that small villages should not find themselves isolated.
"Although the council is under pressure to make cuts, connections between villages and the large towns must be maintained," he said.
Western Greyhound's managing director Mark Howarth said: "Cornwall Council has been in extensive negotiations with bus operators for some months.
"I do understand that Cornwall is under budgetary pressure and needs to save money on its budget. I've lobbied Government ministers about the reduced allocation of funds to local authorities, but ministers have stated that localism means each local authority can determine its own priorities for spending.
"We obviously want to see bus services protected. I was under the impression that frontline delivery cuts weren't going to be made by the newly elected Cornwall Council at least until a bus service re-tendering in April 2014 and after analysis of the public consultation process which is under way.
"I really hope Cornwall Council can find some money for partial replacements in the form of community buses or other alternatives to replace the bus routes being withdrawn, and that money can be found to protect the remaining network from 2014 onwards, as this is vital for the rural community."
A Cornwall Council spokeswoman said it had already been forced to make savings of £170 million over the past four years due to Government cuts in its budget and faced having to save a further £196 million by 2019.
"We are continuing to discuss options with all the bus operators and will be inviting them to join with us in raising this issue with the Government," she said.
For further details of bus service changes, see page 14.