Bus users told to ‘use it or lose it’

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THE most vulnerable in Brackley could be the worst affected when cuts to the county bus subsidies go ahead.

Pensioners and the disabled in the town could stand to lose a local life line if the town’s Buzzer service comes to an end. The Brackley Buzzer, which runs circuits around the town, receives a subsidy from Northants County Council and also gets around £1,300 of support from Brackley Town Council every year.

Local implications continue to emerge after NCC announced it must cut subsidies from £3.1 million to £1 million as part of the wider budgets reductions.

Many blame the concessionary bus fare system for making routes including the Buzzer unprofitable.

Mike Furn, chair of the Bus Users UK Northants Group said it is time normal travellers begin using services or watch them come to an end.

Mr Furn said: “There is a lot of negative panic, but it needs more bums on seats and fare paying passengers. If people support a route things can improve. If they do not then its lost altogether. A case of use it or lose it.”

Mr Furn said when compared to the car, buses were much cheaper and added: “Many users today use there bus passes, but many have enough money to actually pay their fare. Many routes are running at a loss, and one operator told me last week they are suffering because of bus pass holders.”

Graham Harris, director of Tex Coaches which operates the Brackley Buzzer said Government subsidies only cover around half the fare of concessionary passenger, with the balance coming from the local authority. However he said county support also covers the costs of running the route, including the supply of low floor buses, fuel, wages and maintenance, and cannot cover the balance of the concessionary fare. He added: “All we’ve heard is what has been in the press that it might be one of the services cut but we’ve not been told anything officially so far.” He added: “In terms of concessionary fares the route is well used, but not in terms of full prices fares. Other routes are the same, the majority passengers are of pensionable age and the disabled.”

Brackley Mayor Chris Blunden said there are people in the town who rely on the service but said improvements to the time tabling and routing could make it more viable. He added: “We always felt the Buzzer should stop at the industrial estates earlier in the morning, that way people might start to think ‘do we need that second car to get to work’.”

Drop in sessions organised by Stagecoach Oxfordshire will be held in Brackley Town Hall on Wednesday, March 30 from 4.30pm to discuss alterations to their 500 service to incorporate some of the Buzzer’s route.