Bus route cutbacks could impact Chichester area residents

Communities fear they will be left isolated if plans to reduce bus services across the area go ahead.

Many evening and Sunday buses are facing the axe after West Sussex County Council announced it is planning to cut £2m of bus subsidies as part of its £70m savings programme, with £2.7m bus subsidies remaining.

If agreed, the cuts would be phased over three years, with the first phase starting on September 1 this year.

Last week it announced it was holding an ‘impact assessment’ to find out how subsidy reductions would affect passengers.

One of the routes listed is the 55 from Chichester to Tangmere. Concerns over the proposed cuts were raised at the annual parish meeting last week.

Parish council chairman Andrew Irwin said he was ‘particularly disappointed’ the route was listed because people felt it met the county’s criteria on essential services: the route is on an isolated location, it is the only route which serves the hospital and the only way people can get in and out of Chichester.

Cllr Irwin said the meeting heard from county councillor Andrew Smith that evening and weekend services were selected because they were not used much. The parish council is now seeking passenger figures.

“The point made by members of the public was people wishing to visit relatives in hospital won’t be able to use the evening bus service,” said Cllr Irwin.

“What’s ironic about it is some of the funding for the 55 came as a result of Section 106 money from the Blenheim Park development to support the route for three years. This runs out in October so we were disappointed they were quite comfortable cutting the communities facilities funded by money on offer.

“We have areas of relative deprivation in the village – people will be isolated in the evenings. We are talking about young people who can’t afford to insure cars so the bus is only way to get them into the city, but the real issue is the link to the hospital.”

Chichester district councillor John Connor said Selsey would be very badly affected if the cuts went ahead, and that people in the town would face taxi fares of £17.

“Hospital visits will be one of the most important things affected, particularly for the elderly,” said Cllr Connor.

Some criticism has been made over the county’s timing of the announcement, made after most parish councils held their annual meetings and after the elections.

County councillor Lionel Barnard, who has responsibility for highways and transport, said it regretted having to reduce subsidies. He said while some funding was being withdrawn, it did not mean the end of the service and he was working with operators to find a way forward

Passengers have until June 10 to submit their views on the possible changes,

For details of affected routes www.westsussex.gov.uk/buses as well as local libraries and Help Points.

People can call 01243 642105, email buses@westsussex.gov.uk or write to Buses, Have Your Say, FREEPOST RSBK-CHTU-KGGG, West Sussex County Council, Chichester, PO19 1RQ.