More than half of subsidised routes will continue with amended service
Around half (47%) of Oxfordshire’s 118 subsidised bus routes will continue to operate commercially, with the majority running an amended service. Fifteen of the seventeen bus operators have confirmed their intentions for routes when subsidies end on July 20 (the last day of school term). Of these 105 routes, 56 are continuing in some form (47%) and 49 routes are discontinuing (42%). Oxfordshire County Council is yet to hear from two operators about the remaining 13 routes (11%).
In February 2016 the council confirmed its decision to end all funding for 118 local bus services which don't carry enough passengers to be run commercially (subsidised buses) in order to save £3.7 million. This decision does not affect 91 per cent of the bus network which is commercially operated.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said: “We welcome the positive response that we have had from bus operators. It is good news that around half of services will continue, with the majority involving an amended service whether that be a revised timetable or changing the frequency of a route.
“The intention is to launch our innovative affordable transport pilot ahead of the termination of bus subsidies on July 20. Further work is currently under way to develop this service which is a completely new way of operating council owned vehicles. Oxfordshire County Council wants to make more use of existing council vehicles to benefit people of all ages across the county as well as parish councils and community groups who have expressed interest in paying for an affordable, flexible door-to-door transport service.”
Letting people know about these changes
Where services are discontinuing, or will no longer serve a certain bus stop, Oxfordshire County Council will be putting posters up on bus stops to ensure the public are aware. Bus operators will also be putting information on their buses. Where the timetable is changing, bus operators will be responsible for updating the public as they normally would.
For more information on changes to services operated by: Stagecoach Oxfordshire, visit:www.stagecoachbus.com/Oxfordchanges ; and for services operated by Thames Travel, visit:http://www.thames-travel.co.uk/news-service-updates
Oxfordshire County Council has been publishing details online as soon as bus operators confirm their intentions for the services they run. To view updates on all subsidised bus services, visit: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/subsidisedbuses
Use of public buses for home to school transport
The council has reviewed all home to school travel arrangements and identified five routes, involving approximately 290 students overall, where it is more economical for the council to pay for schoolchildren to use season tickets on an existing public bus route (rather than hiring a coach). Operators have told Oxfordshire County Council that this will help them continue to operate some routes commercially, thus benefitting the whole community. The affected schools have been informed.
Whilst the use of S106 funding is legally restricted and relates to specific developments, there are a dozen routes where Oxfordshire County Council has been able use this funding to pump-prime routes which could become commercially viable when the S106 funding runs out.
Innovative affordable transport solution
Earlier this month (May 24) Oxfordshire County Council approved the launch of an innovative pilot scheme that will offer a pre-paid bookable transport service to a broad spectrum of users ranging from groups of teenagers to individual elderly people. The intention is to utilise the downtime of some of the county council’s 16-seater mini-bus fleet during off peak times and offer journeys to anyone without suitable access to transport.