Fears rural West Sussex bus service could be cut

People in Compton have been urged to use their bus service amid fears it could be cut.

The number 54 has been running from Chichester to Petersfield since the 1950s but concerns were raised at the last parish council meeting about the service’s future as West Sussex County Council is looking at cutting support for rural bus services.

Discussions are taking place on the service’s future and a decision on the Countryliner-run service is expected this month.

At the parish council meeting, county councillor Mark Dunn said he did not believe the service’s future was safe and said there would have to be a significantly greater use for it move out of the danger territory.

“It’s an interesting situation; people feel very strongly about it but it is not used very frequently. It is used, but not enough.

“I have seen it roaring along before absolutely empty.”

Cllr Dunn, who represents the Bourne ward, said the current service was being heavily subsidised. “I do think it is likely, unless there is a completely different scale of use, it will not be safe,” he told the meeting.

He suggested a minibus service might be a way forward in the future. This would operate more like a taxi, with people calling up a bus when it was needed, and would be more economical.

Another suggestion was the introduction of a post bus, where people use a bus which also doubles up as a postal delivery and collection vehicle.

“I think it could be the last of the postal deliveries into the village and it could be quite a significant support if instead a post office van went back to Chichester empty it was a minibus. Then I think there could be a timetable arranged and I am pressing for that.”

One village resident who attended the meeting uses the bus regularly but said punctuality had been a problem in the past.

“If it was more reliable it would be a great help,” he said. “When you have been waiting for 20 minutes for it to turn up you then have a dilemma of whether to wait a bit longer in case or just abandon it. On one occasion I had to get a taxi but if I waited another ten minutes it would have eventually turned up.”

After the meeting, parish council chairman John Popplewell said the service was predominantly used by the older generation although there were young passengers who used it to get to college.

Cllr Popplewell said the parish council was looking at various option including rejigging the service to link up with market days and supermarkets and coordinating the timetable with other public transport. If the service was cut another idea is looking at using some of the revenue to set up a parish community bus.

“As a parish council we have to be honest and say it is under-used,” he said. “We would want it to stay. I know certainly a couple of elderly ladies who have used it for many years do so to go to Chichester market but the bus itself doesn’t link up very much with the supermarkets.

“We are in the process of writing to West Sussex County Council and seeing the other alternatives to the timetables and routes.”

See the village website www.comptonpc.org.uk for more details.