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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Higher fares if Cumbrian bus routes that make loss are to survive

Users of loss-making bus routes are likely to face higher fares if their services are to survive.

Bus queue photo

Cumbria County Council supports 70 bus routes with subsidies, which it plans to phase out over the next 12 months to save £1.3m a year.

Some of these almost break even and the council hopes that operators such as Stagecoach or Reays might be able to run them at a profit if fares go up.

The council’s cabinet agreed last week to find £1m to phase out the withdrawal of subsidies instead of cutting them in one go in April.

But it still plans to end all bus subsidies by next year.

Councillor Keith Little, the cabinet member for transport, said: “I’m sure all county councillors would love to be in a position to say ‘we won’t make the cuts and we’re saving your services’ – but we just can’t do that.

“When we’re losing one pound in every four from Government, some non-statutory services are going to stop.

“What we can do is buy ourselves a little more time to explore all alternatives and hopefully come up with some innovative solutions by working with local partners.”

The decision to end subsidies is due to be confirmed by the full council on February 13.

The authority must then give bus operators 56 days’ notice that it is withdrawing them.

It is unlikely that any routes will disappear before May.

The majority of buses in Cumbria, including almost all but one of the urban routes in Carlisle, run at a profit and are unaffected by the council’s decision.

Day-time town services in Whitehaven and Workington are also safe, as are most inter-urban journeys between Carlisle and Newcastle, Dumfries, Penrith and Whitehaven, and between Workington, Keswick and Penrith.

But buses to places such as Kirkbride, Alston, Appleby, Shap, Great Corby, Irthington, Rockcliffe, Cockermouth town services, and evening and Sunday town services in Workington and Whitehaven, depend on subsidies.

Subsidised routes carried 928,000 passengers last year.

Those that might survive if fares go up include the AD122 Hadrian’s Wall bus, the 69 from Holme Head to Eden Town in Carlisle, and the 218 Friday shopper bus from Frizington to Workington.

Sunday town services in Workington and Whitehaven are also close to break even, as are winter 554 journeys from Carlisle to Keswick – the summer service does not need a subsidy.

Parish councils will be asked to support some loss-making rural routes, particularly those that provide a lifeline for shoppers and hospital appointments.

Where that is not possible the county council plans to put in place alternatives, such as its Rural Wheels scheme, to ensure vulnerable people are not isolated.

The buses most likely to go are subsidised evening and Sunday journeys on routes profitable during the day.

Examples include the 65/75 from Dalston to Carlisle and Cotehill, the 71 from Carlisle to Silloth, the 93 from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway, and the 600 from Carlisle to Cockermouth.

The evening service on the 600, for example, needs a subsidy of £4.13 for every passenger carried.

Wigton-based Reays now operates commercially several routes that used to be subsidised including Dalston-Cotehill, Silloth-Workington and Cockermouth-Maryport.

But managing director Chris Reay said it had no plans to take on any more, adding: “Our coach business is so busy we are going to concentrate on that.”

Under threat – Cumbria’s subsidised bus routes

  • 6 Whitehaven-Seascale-Muncaster
  • 8 Whitehaven town service (evenings)
  • 22 Lowca-Whitehaven-town estates-Cleator Moor-Frizington (evenings and Sundays)
  • 26 Whitehaven-St Bees-Egremont-Whitehaven
  • 46/47/50 Workington town services (evenings and Sundays)
  • 47 Newton Arlosh-Wigton
  • 69 Edentown-Carlisle city centre-Holme Head
  • 71 Carlisle-Anthorn-Silloth
  • 73 Carlisle-Caldbeck-Keswick
  • 75 Cotehill-Carlisle-Durdar/Dalston (evenings and Sundays)
  • 93 Carlisle-Bowness-on-Solway (evening journeys)
  • 94/7 Hallbankgate/Castle Carrock-Brampton-Carlisle
  • 95 Brampton-Heads Nook-Great Corby-Carlisle
  • 101 Cockermouth town service
  • 101 Carlisle-Rockcliffe
  • 105 Greystoke-Penrith
  • 106 Penrith-Shap-Kendal
  • 111 Penrith-Burnbanks
  • 185 Carlisle-Brampton-Haltwhistle
  • 218 Frizington-Workington
  • 279 Carlisle-Longtown (Sundays)
  • 300 Carlisle-Maryport-Workington-Whitehaven (11pm departure from Carlisle)
  • 554 Carlisle-Wigton Keswick (winter)
  • 562 Crosby Ravensworth-Penrith
  • 563 Penrith-Appleby-Kirkby Stephen
  • 600 Carlisle-Cockermouth (evenings)
  • 604 Ireby-Wigton
  • 625 Appleby-Dufton-Penrith
  • 680 Nenthead-Alston-Carlisle
  • 685 Carlisle-Brampton (evenings and Sundays)
  • 830 Egremont town service
  • 835 St Bees-Egremont
  • 836 Braystones-Egremont
  • 889 Alston-Hexham
  • AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Bus
  • X5 Workington-Cockermouth-Keswick-Penrith (evenings)
  • X6 Whitehaven-Millom (Sundays)

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