Axe hanging over Chichester’s bus services

Residents have slammed proposals to further slash bus services in Chichester and surrounding villages as part of a £2m three-year programme.

The programme of cuts in subsidies for the services across West Sussex – where bus patronage has doubled in the past decade – were backed by a select committee yesterday.

Some of the services under review include the Stagecoach 47 and 47a between Chichester and East Broyle, and the 56 from Old Bosham through Chichester to Arundel Park. The Emsworth and District 11 service is also being looked at.

“I use the buses every day because I do not drive. People would be stranded if bus services were cut and unable to come into Chichester,” said June Young, of East Wittering.

Margaret Hall of Donnington said: “I use the buses about four times a week and a lot of other people use them. Any cuts would impact me.”

John Harris, of West Wittering, said any cuts would make ‘a hell of a big difference to a lot of people’.

A final decision will be taken soon by Cllr Pieter Montyn, cabinet member for highways and transport, who stressed financial targets had already been decided and agreed by West Sussex County Council.

“The commercial network isn’t for us to consider – that is operated by the bus companies,” Cllr Montyn added. “What we are looking at is the non-profit-making routes.”

Proposals for the third and final phase of the £2m cutbacks are due to be considered by the environmental services select committee next year, with a decision on this expected from Cllr Montyn in the spring.

The select committee was told a detailed bus user survey (www.westsussex.gov.uk/buses) was now taking place for phase three.

Cllr Montyn added: “None of us does this with any pleasure at all; it is something we have to do.”

Members approved a new proposal put forward by Cllr Nigel Dennis urging that improvements to network links between buses, and between buses and trains, should be made a priority to maintain provision for some passenger journeys where subsidised services were being withdrawn.

Responding to questions, Andy Ekinsmyth, service manager for transport commissioning, said in the Chichester area bus operators had been able to keep some services, or parts of services, where subsidies had been removed. These were services at the beginning and end of the day.