Councils leaders have voted to cut 42 supported buses across the region (today, 18 January 2023.)
Supported services are those buses that are not commercially viable but where there is a community need. Local councils pay for them through a ‘transport levy’.
Council leaders chose to reduce the amount of money spent on those buses at a time when the costs to run buses has gone up. The Metro Mayor has no vote on raising the transport levy.
The councils have agreed an 11% real terms decrease in levy spending. The amount spent on levy services has also reduced in cash terms by £1.8 million at a time when the costs of running a bus have significantly increased. This has caused the 42 cuts.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “Once again less is being invested in West of England bus services than elsewhere. It works out at £20 a head here but £36 in Manchester and £63 in Liverpool.
Mr Norris is calling for new powers so he can both raise and spend money for buses directly.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “Less money from local councils means fewer buses. There is no way of getting round that.
The councils also specified which buses they would spend that lesser amount of money on and said deal or no deal. I was presented with a one meal menu. The only option was gruel. And that was a half portion.
“I know passengers will be upset not to get the bus services they need and deserve but without more cash from local councils who are the only ones with tax raising powers there is no way of doing more.”
Separately Mr Norris is introducing WEST link, a new on demand minibus service designed to connect people to main bus services.
The Mayor stressed: “WEST link is not a replacement for supported buses. Indeed government rules say I cannot spend the money being used for it on existing supported services.
“It is a new system designed to get people to main transport corridors. I am sure it will be disruptive and there will be teething problems but I hope WEST link will provide a much-needed new public transport option to help people get out and about to their destinations.”
WEST link is being funded by the West of England Combined Authority predominantly using money secured from government through the Bus Service Improvement Plan. The Mayor successfully secured the second highest amount of cash nationwide of this pot of money last year. This money cannot be spent on existing services with taxpayer subsidy but instead must be invested in services that are innovative and new and was used last year to reduce bus fares.