Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Ah, luxury ...

As a non-driver, I know how valuable a service our local buses provide, especially out here in the Fens. Like many other residents, I rely on them to go shopping, to the hospital, to leisure events (even though they stop too early in the evenings and I have to get a cab back - not cheap!) and for all the other aspects of life that we take for granted.

I was on a bus yesterday to get to March and back for a meeting. I'll need a bus to get to my Body Balance class in Ely later this week, a meeting on Thursday evening, and next week for my dental check-up and physiotherapy appointment. Without the buses, I'd be marooned here in our village; and I'm reasonably young (well, 50+ if the truth be told, but not yet drawing my pension) and healthy, and have my family here at home. I dread to imagine what life would be like if I were 70+ or 80+ with no car and no family, and no bus service either.

I'd always assumed that being able to get from place to place was a fairly fundamental part of life, and that as not everyone was able to drive a car - whether, like me, because they've never passed their test, or through ill health, lack of financial resources, or whatever other reason - ensuring provision of public transport was a basic duty of the powers that be.

Apparently I'm wrong. Fenland's lovable blogger Cllr Steve Tierney has gone on the record at the Cambs Times saying that buses are 'a luxury we can no longer afford'. I somehow doubt that Cambridgeshire's residents see them in the same light.

As part of drawing up its budget for the forthcoming year, Cambridgeshire County Council consulted a number of residents about their priorities. Not surprisingly, bus services came out in the top three. And yet, despite the obvious public support for ensuring people can get out and about, the Conservative-controlled county council is about to axe all support for all bus services across the county over the course of the next four years. Any route that can't turn a profit - and that's most of them out here in the countryside - will go to the wall.

Do you agree with Mr Tierney that it's a 'luxury' for people to be able to get out and about if they haven't got a car? Or, as I suspect, do you think public transport is a little more important than that?


  1. He said SUBSIDISED buses not buses per se, very naughty.
    I also believe it was a long interview and I cant believe in that long time only a paragraph was said!

  2. How much of a bus service do you seriously think will be left in Fenland if only the journeys that make a profit are allowed to continue, Samantha?

  3. Transport services existed long before subsidies and will exist long after too.

    Have you actually looked at the list of commercial and subsidised services? Have you seen the footfalls, usage stats and costs?

    But let us suppose you are right in your apparent supposition that "most" of our bus services dont make a profit - don't you think that is something which is crying out for a rethink?

    Couldn't that large sum of money be better spent? More directly targetted at the people who need it?

    Typically of the Left you prefer the idea of pouring money - taxpayer's money - into your pet projects. But you can't imagine there might be an alternative?

    Even if you were given a gold-plated community transport system that delivered twice the service at a tenth the cost I expect you'd stamp your foot and chant "Bus bus bus!" It's petulant and unhelpful.

    So, for the record, I absolutely DO NOT want to leave people stranded who rely on transport assistance to get about. I made this plain in the body of the interview I gave which was not used. I will be fighting the corner for any of my own constituents who are adversely affected.

    But thinking about new ways of delivering a service is sensible when the previous government spent thirteen years bankrupting the nation. If you're going to oppose every cut when the money has run out you need to show where else you'd save the same amount. Or lose all credibility.

  4. Steve, if there's any foot-stamping going on, it's your quite extraordinary and ad hominem blog post in response to a measured expression of concern at the impact of the county council's decision. Yes, I've got a fair indication of the subsidies currently supporting local bus services - have you? Do you know what's staying and what's going?

    If you're promising "a gold-plated community transport system that deliver[s] twice the service at a tenth the cost" I shall be very pleased for residents of North East Cambridgeshire - but also very surprised. Of course I wasn't invited to Mac's "summit" in March earlier this week - and I assume your skiing obligations will have prevented your attendance too - but I'm told there wasn't much on the table other than a challenge to everyone else to pick up the tab the county council was walking away from.

    I'm increasingly of the suspicion that the county council Conservatives view bus services as a nuisance adjunct to adult social care. I think most people tend to think of public transport as a vital part of a healthy local economy.

    Of course the Liberal Democrat budget amendment at Shire Hall will provide you with a sensible and costed alternative to this wrecking ball. And of course it doesn't take a crystal ball to tell me you'll vote against it.