Sunday, 05 July 2015 20:24

Budget fears for rural bus services

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Budget fears for rural bus services

FURTHER cuts to public transport services would decimate Britain's rural communities, the government has been warned.

The Rural Services Network is making the strongest possible representations against any cuts to the Bus Service Operators Grant (GSOG), which helps fund local bus services.

The warning comes ahead of the government's Budget on Wednesday (8 July).

There is a strong belief among the network's bus industry members that the BSOG could be reduced or abolished either directly or as a result of the Budget.

Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: "Any such move would further decimate rural public transport resulting in dire consequences for rural communities.

"Abolishing the grant would also be devastating for the wider rural economy."

"Even a reduction – especially following the 20% cut in 2012 – would have serious consequences but eliminating BSOG altogether would be disastrous."

Mr Biggs has outlined his concerns in a letter to Chancellor George Osborne.

Network members associated with the bus sector include both private sector operators who operate rural services and transport authorities.

Mr Biggs said the BSOG helped bus companies keep fares lower for rural passengers as well as maintaining links for local communities.

He said: "Removal of the BSOG would potentially be the final straw as far as many commercial local bus services are concerned.

"With local government spending cuts, there would be no "safety net" available for local authorities to pick up the pieces and tender for the provision of these services with subsidy.

Without the BSOG, rural bus operators big and small faced making a loss and the prospect of being driven out of business, warned Mr Biggs.

At least 97 bus operating companies are earning a return below a level which would be seen as acceptable by their economic regulator, and below the cost of capital [3].

Mr Biggs said: "The effect of any further reduction in BSOG is obvious. The withdrawal of BSOG entirely would certainly have disastrous consequences."

Any withdrawal would accelerate the further loss of rural routes, exacerbating congestion and pollution – and removing the lifeline that buses provide for many local communities.

Mr Biggs said: "On top of that, any cut in BSOG would, we believe, result in smaller operators – many serving largely rural areas – going out of business."

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