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Cuts to bus services in Dorset - opinion page

PUBLISHED: 14:30 17 February 2015

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Dorset has experienced some of the biggest cuts to bus services in the whole country. Rural areas have taken the hardest hit, but do we care that we’ve left some people stranded? Alice Cooke looks at the facts behind the cutbacks

It may be saving money but is this latest “amendment” to our bus routes leaving the elderly, the less able and those without cars stranded and with no other means of getting about?

Due to a continued reduction in government-funded finance for public transport (39 percent over the last four years), Dorset County Council has had to make major cuts to subsidies for bus services in Dorset. This has particularly affected rural routes, where most weekend services no longer operate. Priority has been given to maintaining an “essential service” to rural communities between Monday and Friday.

Dorset has seen some of the biggest cuts to bus services in the whole country. Rural buses are being cut, as are evening and weekend services across the network that connect people to jobs, education and training. But the people of Dorset have not been taking this lying down, and local campaigners are up in arms.

Jane Burnet, a bus campaigner and also a local member of the Green Party says, “In a rural county like Dorset with very few rail links, buses serve as the life blood for a lot of residents. Last year many bus users thought the cuts were managed in a careless and poorly researched manner.”

Jane believes that the nature of the Council’s research before the last cuts was a cause for concern. “The cuts were based on a survey conducted in the winter when passenger numbers were at their lowest, resulting in an underestimation of the number of ticket sales on many routes. Whether you consider their decision careless or callous, the public confidence in the Council’s understanding of how vital these services are is low.”

But what can we do about it? Many changes have already happened, have you noticed? If it doesn’t directly affect you are you really that bothered? Supporters of the bus campaign last year met a young woman in Swanage with diabetes who relied on the early morning service to Poole to get to hospital appointments in time, so she could then go to work without losing money. This early morning service was cut.

There are also increasing numbers of job seekers living in rural areas who can no longer afford to go to the job centre or go for interviews. Buses are essential to “get Britain back to work”, that well-touted government slogan, but the decision makers don’t seem to appreciate this.

Dorset County Council received a grant of £2.4m from the Department for Transport from the Sustainable Local Travel Fund “to support economic growth and lower carbon emissions in the local area”. Much of this was spent on signs indicating the availability of parking spaces, while vital bus services were cut.

Dorset is not well served by rail so one has to hope there will be no more cuts to our buses, if there are you can bet your bottom dollar that there’ll be more campaigning. But will it actually make any difference? Do you actually care if it doesn’t? After all you’ve got a car so you’re fine, right…but what if you didn’t?

For up-to-date changes in your area or to donate to the campaign go to bettertransport.org.uk/save-our-buses/bus-cuts-map

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