Several important rural bus routes, temporarily reprieved after Cambridgeshire County Council stepped in to save them from last August onwards, will now be funded until the end of the financial year.
The Council’s Economy and Environment Committee met on Thursday 12 July 2018 to consider extending the funding for previously agreed subsidised contracted bus services until March 2019, pending a more far-reaching review by James Palmer, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
The Committee agreed to extend funding for several bus services, including service 30, between Huntingdon and Ramsey, and service 35, between Huntingdon through Chatteris to March, along with the extension of funding for 13 other previously agreed subsidised contracted bus services.
Mayor James Palmer stepped in to say that the Combined Authority will provide the extra funding to see service 46, which runs between Wisbech and March and is used by students attending Neale-Wade Academy, extended, plus three new services which Whippet Coaches have recently decided to pull out of: the 196 Waterbeach to Cambridge service, the 31 Barley to Cambridge service and the 75 Wrestlingworth to Cambridge.
The County Council will continue to fund all the other previously agreed bus services until the end of the 2018/19 financial year, using reserves held for this purpose, when the Combined Authority’s review of these services is complete. The Council will then work with the Mayor to discuss future funding arrangements.
Councillor Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council said: “I am delighted that the Mayor has agreed to take over funding these four routes to the end of the financial year. This will be a huge relief to people in local areas who depend on them.
“While I have been pressing for this to happen, I am aware that we need to find a more permanent solution to the issue of funding vital links to rural communities which are seen as uneconomic by commercial companies.
“I will be working closely with the Mayor, from my position within the Combined Authority, to urgently review the future of a further 15 services that are under threat and which are currently being supported by the County Council out of its own finite and hard-pressed resources.”
It was previously agreed in August 2017 that the Economy and Environment Committee would fund replacement bus services for up to one year, from local bus reserve funding, following the decision by Whippet Coaches to withdraw 17 bus services, which were a mixture of commercial and contracted services covering Cambridge City, Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire.
In November 2017 it was also agreed to temporarily fund two Stagecoach bus services - Service 30, between Huntingdon and Ramsey, and service 35, between Huntingdon through Chatteris to March.
When Stagecoach announced that service 46 would be withdrawn at the end of April 2018, Cambridgeshire County Councillors stepped in again to fund a replacement bus service in the short term and pledged that this support would also stay in place until 25 August 2018, after which time the Council would be requesting ongoing funding from the Combined Authority to keep the routes operating.