Bus route cutbacks 'will cause hardship'
VILLAGES have been hit by news that Western Greyhound will be axing its 561 bus service between Bodmin, Wadebridge and Camelford.
It will mean villages such as St Tudy, St Mabyn and St Breward will be without a regular service from November 3 to take residents to the three towns.
The service, like many others in the county, is subsidised by Cornwall Council, which says it has to make savings of around £500,000 in the bus budget for the current financial year.
Mark Howarth, Western Greyhound's managing director, 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 have lobbied government ministers about the reduced allocation of funds to local authorities, but ministers have stated that localism means that 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 were not going to be made by the newly elected Cornwall Council, at least until a bus service retendering in April 2014 and after analysis of the public consultation process which is currently under way.
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" I really hope that 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money for partial replacements in the form of community buses or other alternatives to replace the bus routes being withdrawn, and that money can be found to protect the remaining network from 2014 onwards, as this is vital for the rural community,'' said Mr Howarth.
St Breward Parish Council chairman Denis Lusby said the withdrawal of the 561 service would mean the only buses going through the village would be those for shoppers provided by Trago Mills and Asda.
"Cornwall Council approached the people who run our community bus to see if they wanted to take over the service, but that proved impossible given the bureaucracy involved and the pressure it would put on our volunteer drivers.
"The parish council will be discussing the withdrawal of the bus service at our next meeting, but I can see the need for more car sharing as a possible option.'' Brian Lamerton, chairman of St Tudy parish council, said the cut would cause problems for a considerable number of residents, including members of his own family.
"My daughter is partially sighted and relies on the bus to travel to Bodmin most days, and my sister uses the bus to get to work in Bodmin.
"We don't have a community bus in St Tudy, and I think the cutting of the 561 service will cause hardship,'' said Mr Lamerton.
A Cornwall Council spokesperson said it had already been forced to make savings of £170m over the past four years due to government cuts and was now facing having to make further savings of £196m 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.