Bus services hit by £19m cut

Bus cuts
Bus cuts

THE future of Wigan borough’s bus services is in doubt after transport chiefs revealed a £19m budget cut for services across Greater Manchester.

It is feared that commuters, children and the disabled could all suffer following the announcement by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) bosses.

Transport bosses say they are facing “unprecedented pressures” after their budget was frozen for three years despite costs being expected to spiral.

It means the 2014/15 budget is £20m less than it was in 2007/08. They will slash:

£7.1m from the general bus network, school buses;

Nearly £0.7m from the Ring and Ride service - a bus for the disabled and elderly who can’t take regular public transport;

About £8.2 from operational costs - which means 20 per cent of all posts will go to save £5.2m. This is on top of the 15 per cent of jobs already cut. A voluntary severance scheme has begun and vacant posts won’t be filled - and compulsory redundancies aren’t being ruled out.

The measures were discussed at a Transport for Greater Manchester budget briefing yesterday.

The £7.1m general cut will affect bus services subsidised by TfGM – which is 20 per cent of the network.

It will mean reduced frequency of some routes, while bosses hope to make further savings by getting operators to take on services they currently subsidise.

Funding for night buses will be removed – but it’s hoped bus operators will take up the slack.

Coun Andrew Fender, chairman of the TfGMC, said: “We’ve achieved a great deal over recent years as we deliver the £1.5bn investment in transport infrastructure and services through the Greater Manchester Transport Fund. Equally as important is our day-to-day spending on crucial bus services and concessionary travel.

“As a local government body, we are acutely aware of the need to make ongoing efficiency and cost savings – while at the same time protecting our long-term investment in transport infrastructure.”

The majority of the budget comes from a levy funded by taxpayers in Greater Manchester’s 10 authorities, including Wigan Council. This will remain at £198m a year until 2016/17.

But each year, costs go up while three per cent of the budget has to go to the £1.5bn Manchester Transport Fund.

Steve Warrener, TfGM finance and corporate services director, said authorities were facing “unprecedented budgetary pressures”.

He said cost savings and efficiences needed to be made in order to continue supporting the Greater Manchester Transport Fund.

“Given the growing costs of supporting essential bus services and providing free or discounted travel to young people, pensioners and people with disabilities, and as almost 50 per cent of our levy-funded expenditure is committed, we are left with little choice but to look at making those savings through reductions in headcount,” Mr Warrener added

The budget will be considered for approval by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority during a meeting scheduled to be held at the end of January.

Emma Antrobus, of Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s a shame cuts are going to have go be made.”