In December the County Council launched a consultation that aims to find out how important evening and Sunday local bus services are to the county's residents. With low passenger numbers on some services, we are looking at how we will support these services in the future.
The consultation has reached its seventh week, so if you haven’t taken part yet, you still have six weeks left to have your say on the proposals.
Cabinet Member, Cllr Ray Gooding said: “We are getting a steady stream of responses to the consultation but would always encourage more.
“We know that buses are important to many people. If you use these services and feel that the proposals would affect you, then please make sure you have taken part. “
Around 85% of the bus network in Essex is run commercially; this includes most of the daytime and peak period services in and between towns. These services will not form part of this consultation.
The remaining 15% of services are not commercially viable and are subsidised by the County Council; this means that the commercial bus operators will not run them. These non-commercial services mainly operate in rural areas and at less popular times for travel, such as in the evenings and on Sundays.
The supported and evening services (buses that operate after 10pm) are the ones that are being reviewed. In particular we are reviewing supported services that run after 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on Saturdays; and on Sundays reviewing services that run after 7pm and run more frequently than two hourly.
The consultation also looks at how we might develop the right type of service to meet the travel needs of residents and visitors by making more use of a wider variety of ways for providing services, such as smaller vehicles, 'demand responsive' transport or taxi-buses.
Residents are also being asked their views on giving local communities and their representatives at district, town and parish level the opportunity and funding to commission local bus services in their area, based on their understanding of local needs and where this can be done more cost effectively.
Cllr Ray Gooding added: “We have a strong record of supporting local bus services particularly in comparison with other local transport authorities who have significantly reduced the level of support that they offer.
“At present we spend around £9m of taxpayers money on these services each year. However with the number of passengers in some cases falling below six per journey, coupled with the strong financial pressure on all local government funding, we have to look very carefully at how we provide our services to ensure that the limited funding available is focused where it will do the most good and where local communities need it."
The consultation launched on Wednesday 19 December 2018 and will run until 22 March 2019.
The consultation can be accessed at www.essex.gov.uk/local-bus-consultation. Paper versions are also available to collect from libraries and on request.
Residents can also complete the consultation over the phone by calling 03457 430 430 or by e-mailing email@example.com.