Mass lobby planned to protect bus routes

BUS passengers across East Cambridgeshire are being urged to join a mass lobby of county councillors next week.

Protest group Cambridgeshire Against The Cuts believe that only lobbying a meeting of the council’s Cabinet at Shire Hall, Cambridge, on Tuesday can pressure be brought to ensure subsidies stay.

Andrew Osborne, secretary of the group, said one key main service in East Cambs is under threat, the Number 9 service which links Littleport, Ely and nearby March to Cambridge.

“Cambridgeshire is a rural county with very little transportation infrastructure and the rural bus routes are vital,” said Mr Osborne.

“Cuts to these bus routes will effect the poor, the unemployed and pensioners.”

Mr Osborne said a year ago the council announced plans to withdraw all subsidies to bus routes in Cambridgeshire, a proposal adopted in the face of opposition from Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts, the Campaign For Better Transport and other campaigns.

He said of all local authorities in the country, Cambridgeshire County Council’s was the biggest cut in bus subsidy of 100 per cent or �2.7 million.

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Mr Osborne said they launched a legal challenge to the county council’s subsidy withdrawal plan and later the council conceded defeat and agreed to suspend the programme of cuts and conduct a new consultation. It is that consultation that will be debated on Tuesday.

Cambridgeshire county councillor Steve Criswell, cabinet member for Community Infrastructure, said: “It is clear that communities quite rightly value these bus services which the tax payer provides and are concerned about their potential loss if subsidies are withdrawn. However, the services that are currently provided do not always meet needs and cost the taxpayer a large amount of money each year.

That is why we are proposing more targeted local transport that we expect will address needs and achieve the savings we need to make.

To deliver this, we are investing �1.5m into more targeted local transport solutions which could include a whole range of initiatives. It is planned to introduce these in a phased way over three years.”