Bus subsidy cut to hit services

Lifeline rural bus services in Norfolk are to be reviewed after a disappointing grant settlement from the government, it emerged yesterday.Norfolk County Council has been awarded a £2.

Lifeline rural bus services in Norfolk are to be reviewed after a disappointing grant settlement from the government, it emerged yesterday.

Norfolk County Council has been awarded a £2.6m rural bus subsidy grant from the Department for Transport for 2007/8.

Although this is an increase of 2.4pc on last year's settlement, it is below the level needed to provide existing timetables and to improve the services.

The council currently subsidises 79 services carrying 1.9m passengers a year. All of these will be reviewed to ensure they still provide value for money and meet the needs of passengers as officials look to make the most of the available grant.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, pledged that the council would do “its level best” to avoid penalising people in rural areas but said “imaginative solutions” were needed.

He said: “The grant money received for rural bus services is welcome, as it assists rural bus services in Norfolk.

Most Read

“However, I am disappointed that the increase on last year's settlement is going to make it difficult to maintain all services subsidised through the grant, therefore we will have to review the situation carefully, which could mean services being revised.

“Rural bus services are a lifeline for villages and hamlets in our county.

“In addition to this government grant the county council subsidises £1.7m on rural bus services from its own budget.

“This below-inflation increase reflects what is going on across local government at the moment and we expect the government will continue to ignore inflation in future settlements.

“When you take into account rising petrol and diesel prices, the cost of new buses and increases in driver pay it is quite clear our finances are being squeezed and we will need to find imaginative solutions.”

He said some services could be combined or altered to take in more villages in an attempt to save money.

On-demand services - which would operate more like taxis - and community bus schemes are also being explored in areas where there are only small numbers of passengers.

Inflation in the transport industry in 2005 was 5.45pc meaning that in effect the government has reduced its grant by 4.8pc over the last two years.