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School and hospital bus services in Brighton and Hove hit by cuts
Bus routes to schools, hospitals and poorer areas are to be cut or scrapped to save money.
Brighton and Hove City Council will recommend ending its public subsidy to some evening, weekend and school services to save about £230,000 a year.
However, spending on a further 17 loss-making routes will continue with the local authority claiming they help people get to school or work.
Officials said they had saved as many services as they could.
But critics said the local authority should use profits from parking fees to continue subsidising routes.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “We’ve done everything possible to protect as many routes as we can and to bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number.
“Most school bus services are being protected as are those heavily used by people to get to work.”
Commercial companies cannot use profits from popular routes to fund loss-making services.
However, councils can support important services which are not already run by private or social enterprise firms.
The local authority is proposing to award four-year contracts to Brighton and Hove Bus Company and Compass Travel, worth a combined £905,000 a year, from September, to run uneconomic routes.
A final decision is expected at the council’s policy and resources committee meeting on Thursday, June 14.
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “The Greens are now cutting bus services at the same time as massively increasing parking charges in the city.
“This makes no sense. We are particularly concerned at the cuts to school bus services and cutting winter evening services will particularly disadvantage older, more isolated people.”
Andrew Boag, chairman of Brighton Area Buswatch, which represents passengers said: “We recognise that the council has to make savings and will be pressing for the impact to be reduced where possible.
“We will also be pressing the Brighton and Hove Bus Company to continue running at least some of the threatened services without subsidy for an experimental period.”
Subsidised bus routes in the city and across the county were slowly expanded in the last decade in response to requests from passengers.
Routes at risk
It is understood this is the first time they have been cut in Brighton and Hove since the early 2000s.
Amongst the most heavily-subsidised routes, costing the city council more than £100,000 a year, are the 47 between Brighton station and Saltdean via Royal Sussex County Hospital, the 56 between the Knoll Estate in Hove and Patcham via the city centre and Hollingbury, and the 37B between the Bristol Estate and Meadowview via the Open Market.
These will all continue under the proposals.
The majority of routes to end will be hourly services on winter weekends serving the outskirts of the city.
Roger French, of Brighton and Hove Bus Company, said the firm was “quite ambivalent” about the subsidised routes.
He added: “The bus company currently operates 98% of routes in the service on a commercial basis so it affects very few routes. It’s up to the city council what other services it wants to provide.”
West Sussex County Council is expected to reveal the results of the final part of its review of bus services in the coming weeks.
The following services in Brighton and Hove will stop:
21B, 27, 81A, 26, 22 and 24 which run after 6pm on Sundays between September and May (saving £51,000 per annum)
74 on school days from Lewes Road via Bevendean and Coldean to Patcham (£34,000)
52 from the city centre via the Royal Sussex to Ovingdean and Woodingdean (£63,000). Sunday services will continue with the 57. A new contract will operate from Brighton Marina to Ovingdean and Woodingdean, Monday to Saturday. Users will have to change buses either at the marina or on the coast road in Ovingdean
81 Monday to Saturday evenings from Old Steine to Goldstone Valley (£43,000)
96 on school days from Carden Avenue via Westdene to Blatchington Mill School (£38,000)
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