I am very concerned about the recent announcement that the reimbursement paid to bus companies under the concessionary bus pass scheme is to be cut by 30%. The largest bus operator in the Bay, Stagecoach have already stated that a reduction in their services will be likely if this cut is implemented. Should Stagecoach decide to cut both the frequency of some services or cut services altogether I feel this will have a negative effect not just on people living, working and studying in the Bay but also on our holiday trade. As a retired bus driver I know that many visitors have expressed both surprise and delight at the range and frequency of our bus services in Torbay.
However I am not as yet desperately concerned about the level of cuts that Stagecoach may bring in should they feel that the level of income is insufficient to sustain some of their routes. They are a large nation company with sufficient financial backing to continue operating in The Bay for sometime in the hope the reimbursement may at some time in the future return to a more sensible level.
My greatest concern at this time is with the smaller bus operators here in Torbay. I speak of Local Link, Country Bus, Rail Link and Devonian Motor Services. These bus operators cover areas in Torbay which Stagecoach do not. A few examples of services provided by these companies are the services from Torquay and Paignton to Cockington, from Torquay direct to Torbay Hospital and the Willows, Brixham to the Willows via Occambe Farm and areas of Paignton not served by Stagecoach. Other service include Torquay to Meatfoot and Daddyhole, Paignton to Broadsands and Galmpton, Paignton to Stoke Gabrial. All of these service allow people to go shopping, visit their doctor or just visit friends. Those living in these areas without cars will be forced to rely on friends or taxis which will cause many elderly and less able people to become virtual prisoners in their own homes.
A convenient local bus service might not exactly be enshrined in any Charter of Human Rights but it is a vital part of the wellbeing of any community. To risk destroying it is not what a forward looking local authority should be doing. And at a time when everything possible should be done to reduce the numbers of cars on the road reducing or eliminating bus services is not the way to go. Once these bus service go because the companies concerned could be forced to close they will be gone for good. No one is going to replace these services when the recession is over and more money becomes available. This action may be saving the council a large amount of money in the short term but in the long term it will leave thousands of households in the Bay area permanently without a bus service. I urge you to do all you can to prevent this forthcoming reduction in our bus service to take place before it is too late.
David C Banks
27 Feb 2012