Use or lose your bus services as axe falls

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WIGAN bus travellers may have to use their favourite routes or lose them as the region’s town halls face severe budget cuts.

Councillors from the 10 local authorities across Greater Manchester will meet to discuss how to implement around £7m of savings on the region’s bus network later this week.

Councils currently provide Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) with the financial support for around 20 per cent of its services, but pressure to reduce the size of the public sector means this will be reduced by around a fifth by 2016.

Although TfGM has pledged to work with commercial bus operators to ensure people in Wigan are not stranded without needed services, and promised popular Ring and Ride service is safe, councillors are warning the axe is likely to fall on a number of commercially-unviable routes.

TfGM committee chairman Coun Andrew Fender said: “We are now under huge pressure to make savings as a result of national spending cuts. We are committed to working with partners to deliver excellent public transport and the last thing any of us wants to see is fewer essential bus services on our roads.

“That’s why the approach we are taking is to drive efficiencies in the way we deliver services rather than simply making cuts, but that’s not to say we won’t face some difficult decisions when it comes to spending on individual services. We’ll be undertaking a rigorous, case-by-case review of every bus journey we pay for, and it’s clear from the sheer scale of savings required that we won’t be able to justify continued funding for some of them.

“We will of course be actively engaging with bus operators to encourage them to consider running the bus journeys and services that show the greatest commercial potential. We will also explore new and different ways of providing the services we pay for – and making the best use of improving transport links through interchange with bus and rail.”

TfGM has already guaranteed the Ring and Ride door-to-door service for vulnerable and elderly people will be maintained seven days a week between 8am and 10.45pm, despite the cuts leading to some minor changes.

The service runs more than one million journeys for people who find it difficult to access ordinary forms of public transport each year. TfGM also operates services including school buses, local link services and town centre Metroshuttles. TfGM has to find around £19m in savings, with almost half of this coming by reducing the organisation’s own operating costs. Councillors on the bus services sub-committee will review the savings plans at a meeting onFriday.