Today’s GMITA Bus Network & GMPTE Services committee agenda fires a warning shot over the future of some subsidised “socially necessary” bus services in the Rochdale and Bury area, with recommendations that a number of local services that run in the evenings and on Sundays be withdrawn or cut in frequency.
A review of the evening and Sunday network provided by Rossendalebus (also known as Easyride) in Rochdale has resulted in GMPTE putting forward a number of options to deal with potentially significant cost increases when the contracts come up for renewal. Although trunk routes to neighbouring towns are unaffected, these secondary local routes are claimed to be carrying very few passengers with the average cost per passenger having risen to more than £3.
|Service||To||Average passengers per trip||Distance to
|Mon to Fri||Sat||Sun|
- withdrawal of the Monday to Saturday (post 1930hrs) and Sunday (post 1730hrs) evening journeys
- reduction in frequency on specific routes
- withdrawal of Sunday (post 1730hrs) evening services
- a combination of the above
The executive has put forward its proposals, so now it is time for the nominated political body to make the final decision. We only hope that if a frequency reduction is on the cards then the remaining journeys will be timed so as to be easily remembered and not some abstract frequency such as every 90 minutes, which can surely only lead to even less patronage in the future.
Meanwhile just down the road in Bury, GMITA is also looking to withdraw two services that operate in the evenings and on Sundays. The 478 to Radcliffe and the 481 to Holcombe Brook both operate at a rather-difficult-to-remember… erm… 90 minute frequency to enable both services to be operated by a single vehicle. The GMPTE contracts are operated by Maytree Travel: Monday to Saturday daytime services on the 481 are provided commercially by Rossendalebus, whilst there is no corresponding Monday to Saturday daytime service on service 478.
It is reported that the number of customers has declined to an average of 2 passengers per trip on Monday to Friday evenings and only 1 passenger per trip on Saturday evenings and Sundays. GMPTE proposes to withdraw evening and Sunday services from 30th January 2011. If the services are withdrawn then some passengers may face walks of up to 1km to the nearest alternative bus service – although in the case of service 481, some areas benefit from the local Bury Rural Local Link demand responsive transport.
What do these reductions in subsidised services mean for the future: will there be similar bus service reductions at off-peak times to come? Almost certainly in our opinion: look at stories in neighbouring areas – reductions in subsidy for all bus services on Sundays in Warrington, with Metro, the PTE for West Yorkshire also warning that they may have to cut back if budgets are reduced. We understand that GMPTE has a large number of such contracts coming up for renewal in April, where we fear we may start to see the effects of the public spending review later this month.