Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from K Gregory (MCA 124)

I apologise for encroaching on your time. I am writing in response to a leaflet collected from the customer information point at Yeovil Bus Station informing of the Transport Select Committee.

The leaflet claims that the committee would like to hear the views of bus users in Somerset among three other areas mentioned therein.

The importance of local bus services to my wife and I, and, many other non car owners is total. We are in our later seventies and, for medical reasons, I gave up driving some six/seven years ago making buses and trains our/my sole form of transport. Therefore, I repeat that our reliance on bus services is total. In fact, several of our elderly neighbours and friends are in a similar situation—for differing reasons. Likewise young people below the legal age of driving.

Recent changes to funding for bus provision will mean there will be no evening services or indeed, Sunday services. My wife and I rely on bus services to make—and keep—hospital and clinic appointments; hospital visiting; family visits; and, for a number of leisure pursuits. I have so far this year kept appointments at two hospitals (one 10 miles, another 20+ miles distant), and a clinic, with more to come. I suffer from failing eyesight, hence, my withdrawal from driving. Moreover, we have been able to make family visits to share birthdays etc, with our children and grandchildren. This, of course, helps to bind the family group and alleviates the need of relatives to transport us should they have taken a drink.

The benefits of concessionary travel to the elderly and disabled are, I think, quite evident. In fact, I was born in an area where elderly folk enjoyed free travel, without grudge, and for many years back I also recall—with disgust—that here in the West Country, a friend used to push his very frail mother to the bus stop, lift her onto the bus and to a seat, return to fold and stow the wheelchair, and then pay for them both. Makes one quite ashamed does it not?

Perhaps a lower, more selective qualification maybe worth considering? It could be that 60 is too low given the raising of retirement age(s). After all, I f a person is say, 63, and still working, there is probably more income for bus travel. Additionally, it is odd that we have had neighbours claiming, and using, bus passes while in ownership of perfectly serviceable—and expensive motor cars, in one case a Range Rover. There are many instances of this practice, of course with varied makes of car. So, maybe, as suggested higher qualification age and more selective means of qualifying. For very many people of our acquaintance, it is extremely annoying that bus services, and, concessionary travel is under threat from people who enjoy FREE travel and allowances both nationally and locally. Perhaps at age 60 to retirement half price travel could be considered?

Regarding passengers' views, there is not much evidence to indicate that bus companies or local authorities pay much heed. In the Somerset area there has never been much meaningful competition—just crumbs from the table of the major operator. Moreover, there is no evidence of there ever being municipal services in place. Certainly not in living memory.

In summary, for us, bus services are vital. I was recently quoted "seven to eight pounds" for a single taxi journey well within Taunton town boundary. Around 1-1.1/4 miles... one way.

Many people I have spoken to do not feel inclined to respond for a variety of reasons—none too complimentary. Many feel as we do that the withdrawal of services will widen the gaps already present in society.

On behalf of my wife and I, may I thank you for the opportunity to make our position known.

March 2011

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Prepared 11 August 2011