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Another Harlow bus may be cut

Politics / Mon 17th Dec 2018 at 05:55pm

SOME Sunday bus services operating across Essex could be reduced – while two evening services could be withdrawn altogether.

Essex County Council is set to consult on its supported bus services – including those relating to journeys after 10pm Monday to Friday and from 11pm on Saturdays, as it looks to reshape the local bus network

The consultation is set to include dropping the frequency of buses on Sundays to a two-hourly service between 8am and 7pm.

Those Sunday services that could be affected include the 351 between Chelmsford and Brentwood and the 71C between Chelmsford and Colchester.

In addition the consultation, between December and February 2019, will also explore the proposals to withdraw two evening services – the number 21 between Bocking and Black Notley and the 418B between Harlow and Loughton as they currently cost more than £5 per passenger journey.

The 12-week consultation covering all 59 evening and Sunday bus services currently provided under contract to Essex County Council (ECC) will also look how it can re-shape the local bus network and how more can be devolved to communities and their representatives.

An extension of a total of 62 contracts that are due to expire in March or July 2019 for an additional 12 months is being planned to allow for a full consultation to be undertaken before a subsequent procurement is undertaken for those services.

Across Essex there are around 41 million passenger journeys annually, of which 2.8 million are on the supported network.

Of those, 500,000 passenger journeys take place on evenings and 300,000 on Sundays.

In Essex around 85 per cent of the bus network, by passenger miles travelled, is provided commercially. On these services, commercial operators set their own bus routes, set their own fares, and run their services as their commercial interests require.

The remaining 15 per cent of the bus network is supported by ECC and these routes carry 2.8 million passenger journeys a year.

In 2018/19 the bus network supported by ECC accounted for over 200 services at a cost of £8.3m per annum.

Evening and Sunday bus services provided by ECC support around 800,000 passenger journeys a year at a cost of £1.9m.These evening and Sunday contracts are due to finish in March 2019.

Upon the conclusion of the consultation, ECC with carry out a full review of all responses, and use those responses to inform its decision making around the future evening and Sunday contract services across Essex.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Stephen Robinson said: “This illustrates the depth of the funding crisis facing local government.

“It is clear that no county council service is safe from Conservative cuts.

“It underlines yet again that the government needs to realise the depth of the crisis that local councils are facing.

“And local councils of all colours are faced with incredible difficult choices.

“On buses in particular, given our desire to reduce congestion, reduce pollution and to reduce social isolation, this is a retrograde step to be cutting these services which are a vital life line for many people.”

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