Petition – Bus Service for Basingstoke evenings
Response to Hampshire County Council, July 2012
Thank you for your petition, received in my office on 25 April 2012, concerning the changes to bus services in Basingstoke from October 2011 following the review of bus services across Hampshire.
The petition requests that Hampshire County Council reviews the licence given to Stagecoach but I would advise that most bus services in Hampshire are provided commercially, that is without subsidy from the County Council, and that bus operators are licensed by the Department for Transport not the County Council. On commercial services, the operator decides the route, timetable and fares charged according to how many passengers they expect to carry. These are not matters over which the County Council has control.
Hampshire County Council, in partnership with others such as Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, provides significant funding for local bus and community transport services, such as Basingstoke Dial-a-Ride, telephone 01256 462101, which would not be provided commercially. This funding is used to provide extra services, rather than subsidise fare levels which are set to match those on commercial services. County Bus Inspectors monitor subsidised services with regard to time keeping and reliability and will investigate the complaints raised in the petition.
By way of background, I would advise that in 2011, all local bus services that Hampshire County Council subsidised were reviewed following a reduction in Government funding of £55 million, with a further £544,000 reduced from the Rural Bus Subsidy Grant monies that we receive.
The reduced funding meant that we could no longer maintain the same level of service as was previously provided and in considering options we consulted widely, looked at the survey data showing use of subsidised services and at the alternatives available such as local facilities or other public transport options. Following this, a series of meetings was held with Stagecoach, as the major local operator in this case, to best match services to the use made of them and to the budget available. The current timetables were the result. The review was carried out across the County.
Following consultation, priority was given to Monday to Friday daytime services as these meet the widest range of travel needs for work, education, food shopping, doctor's appointments and leisure. Where funding allows, or services are provided without subsidy, some evening and Sunday journeys are provided but these are not the main priority for support.
In the Basingstoke area most daytime services are provided commercially so subsidy goes towards the less well used and more rural services. Evening services after 9pm, which were previously subsidised, and which included journeys to surrounding communities such as Tadley, cost over £200,000 a year, which was no longer affordable. I am pleased that we have been able to retain weekday evening journeys until 9pm to cater for busy early evening travel and those who finish work at 8pm as well as a number of daytime journeys on Sundays.
With regard to journeys to Basingstoke Hospital, some passengers who formerly had a through service may have to change buses now, but buses serve the hospital between 7am and 9pm on Monday to Saturday with up to five journeys an hour. On Sundays there is an hourly service between 9am and 5pm.
In view of the priority from consultation it was considered appropriate that the reduced budget should be focussed on those communities which would otherwise not have a daytime service for essential journeys. As a result, funding is no longer available for late evening journeys or for all the journeys which we were previously able to support.
Thank you for the opportunity to explain the background to the difficult decisions which have had to be made in the current budget situation.
Councillor Melville Kendal
Executive Member for Environment and Transport