Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Bus Users Shropshire (BUS 132)

This submission is made on behalf of Bus Users Shropshire, a newly formed group of passengers who wish to see higher quality bus services in our county. The group formed as a result of Shropshire Council's proposals to significantly reduce services across the county.

We are not in a position to comment on the financial background of Shropshire Council or of government policy and its effects on council funding. We are able to provide our understanding of Shropshire Council's changes and their effects on us and on people like us.

Our evidence draws on the experiences of canvassing hundreds of bus passengers during February and March 2011, from the 100+ people who attended a public meeting in March held specially to express concern about the Shropshire Bus Strategy, and from the 36 people who have come together this month to form the core of Bus Users Shropshire.


The impact seen so far in Shropshire has been:

—  Subsidy withdrawn from several "less used" services entirely.

—  Withdrawal of services used mainly by school children attending schools which are not their closest.

—  Fares increases.

—  Service frequency reductions in commercially operated services.

Although not slated for any change by Shropshire Council, the Shropshire Hills tourist mini bus service has been halved because of withdrawal of support from other partner agencies.

Shropshire Council's Bus Strategy proposes further changes this year:

—  Removal of subsidy from all Sunday services. These currently operate on five interurban routes across the county, and on four urban routes wholly within Shrewsbury.

—  Removal of subsidy from all evening services Monday-Saturday. These currently operate on four urban routes wholly within Shrewsbury.

—  Reduction in subsidy on seven interurban routes across the county day time Monday-Saturday. Frequencies will change from hourly to every two hours.

—  Further frequency reductions in some "less used" services. For example it is proposed that the town of Bishops Castle will have a six hours gap in day time services to Shrewsbury.

Bus Users Shropshire members know that people rely on buses as an essential means of getting about to do most of the 101 things that car drivers use their cars for. The effects of the changes that have already taken place, and which are planned to take place, will have significant impact on people's ability to get to and from work during the evening and on Sundays (note: many people's shifts continue after 6pm, while Sundays are an increasingly popular shopping day), to get to church, to see family members on a Sunday, to go to hospital to visit on a Sunday, to have days out on a Sunday. In order to be sure of leaving the town centre before the last bus home, potential passengers will need to set out extra early. We believe the proposed changes to the network will undermine public confidence in using buses and will discourage modal change away from the motor car.

We note that many people who currently use buses have no alternative viable mode of travel. Many users are young, old, poor, disabled or vulnerable.

Town traders have expressed concern both to us and in the media about loss of takings because of evening and Sunday service cuts.

We have taken evidence that people in Shrewsbury town consider bus fares to be expensive. At £1.80 single (and with no return fares available) a journey to town for a mum and two children costs £7.20 there and back, significantly more expensive than taking a car and paying to park. Arriva have explained that their recent fares increase (and service frequency reduction) on commercially operated services has been decided upon to protect profit following changes in government grants/concessionary fares payments. It is noted that Shropshire Council chooses to charge "park and ride" passengers considerably less for similar routes that are more frequent and faster, and which use state of the art modern buses (and which have free parking thrown in).


Until 31 March 2011 Shropshire Council permitted concessionary pass holders to use their passes at any time. Since 1 April these have been limited to "after 9.30am". We have received numerous responses to this change:

—  People with a learning disability have said they need to get to their place of work or college during peak hours and the cost of paying bus fares will be a huge expense for them. They used to have a different scheme, rather than the elderly persons scheme, which permitted earlier travel at a reduced rate.

—  People with learning disabilities have explained they have difficulty with numbers and counting out change. By having to pay in cash in future they will be put off using buses and from going out as the delay they may cause while paying is likely to result in unpleasant comments being made by other members of the public.

—  Older people living in rural Shropshire have said how unfair the 9.30 rule is as it works to the advantage of people who live near big towns, and against those who live furthest away. For example a bus leaving a rural town at 9am and arriving in Shrewsbury at 9.50am will be cash only for its first half hour of travel, but as it nears Shrewsbury it will start being accessible to concessionary card holders from 9.30am. Not only do people living furthest away have the most expensive fares to pay, they often have less frequent services meaning that if they wish to use their concessionary card they may not arrive in Shrewsbury until 11.50am.

—  Some older people have said they would prefer to be able to pay half fare at any time, or pay an annual fee in order to have free travel at any time.

—  We would prefer the rule to apply at the terminus of the service ie buses that arrive at their destination after 9am or 9.30am would be open to concessionary card holders, rather than at the point of boarding which has the iniquitous inequality as noted above.

—  While it is understood that in major urban centres buses are used for commuting and may have no spare capacity, in rural counties there is usually plenty of spare space on board and it is not believed there is any loss of revenue to the operator from permitting concessionary card holders to use services prior to 9.30am. An earlier cut off of 9am might be a workable compromise.


We are not aware of any standing consultative arrangement in Shropshire to gauge passengers' views. On this occasion we understand that the changes introduced in February and April 2011 were not consulted on. The proposed changes in the Bus Strategy for implementation later this year have been part of a consultation by Shropshire Council involving posters at the bus stations with online survey form. Six roadshow events run by Shropshire Council were poorly advertised and were all held during working hours. No representative of Shropshire Council attended the public meeting held to express concern about the Bus Strategy despite an invitation being extended.

We understand that Shropshire Council invited Passenger Focus to comment on the Bus Strategy and we have seen a copy of Passenger Focus' response.

April 2011

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