08:07 Friday 28th January 2011
Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
JEREMY SALLIS: Over the next four years more than 50 of Cambridgeshire’s subsidised bus services could be removed. Subsidised transport costs the County Council just under £3 million to run, and provides access to the wider community, helping people to get, say, to local libraries, and to the hospital. Well earlier on in the programme we spoke to Glenn Edge, who’s the Head of Passenger Transport from Cambridgeshire County Council. (TAPE)
GLENN EDGE: They’re subsidised as social needs. We recognise they’ve grown up over time, but unfortunately we’re in a difficult position. The reality of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the financial situation the Government is in today is now coming home to roost. We’ve got reduced monies from Government. We’ve got inflationary pressures, demographic changes on the County, and therefore trying to make budget prediction over the next four years, while taking into account growth in the County, has meant that our councillors have had to make some very tough decisions. We’ve got to save, as you know, over £160 million over the next four years. (LIVE)
JEREMY SALLIS: Well joining me in the studio now is Andy Campbell, who’s Managing Director of Stagecoach. Morning to you Andy. Thank you for coming aboard.
ANDY CAMPBELL: Good morning.
JEREMY SALLIS: You run, what, around 20 of those subsidised services which we were speaking about?
ANDY CAMPBELL: We do. Yes.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. So what was your reaction when the Council came to you and said we’re going to have to remove that subsidy?
ANDY CAMPBELL: I was somewhat surprised, because I would have thought it would have been better to try and figure out what money there is, and see what could be provided. Telling us that they’re going over the next four years, not actually telling us when they’re going, doesn’t help us to plan, and doesn’t help the people in those areas as to whether they’re going to have a bus next year, the year after, or the year after that.
JEREMY SALLIS: How heavily subsidised are the routes which you run then by the Council? What sort of percentage of the cost is covered on those routes?
ANDY CAMPBELL: It’s the difference between us being able to operate and cover our costs, and running at a loss. Because we’re not allowed to run at a loss, because the Office of Fair Trading don’t allow us to do that.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. And you’re not a charity, you’re a business, aren’t you?
ANDY CAMPBELL: We are a business.
JEREMY SALLIS: So as much as it upsets you I guess to take away these services, you don’t really have a choice in this situation.
ANDY CAMPBELL: No we don’t have a choice. And the worst thing is that also the Government are reducing the amount of money that we get for concessionary fares.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK, so .. what, the free bus pass?
ANDY CAMPBELL: The free bus pass. Where we used to get 70p in the pound, that’s coming down to something like 45p in the pound. So we will have to make cuts and changes to commercial services as well.
JEREMY SALLIS: Right. So this is aside of the 20 that you run. And I guess other companies may be in the same or similar situation. So we’ll see further cuts to services across the board in Cambridgeshire, will we, as a result of that?
ANDY CAMPBELL: Without a shadow of a doubt. Yes. The Government decided to bring in a free scheme for pensioners. And we’re going to be in a situation where people have a free bus pass. But there aren’t the buses to use.
JEREMY SALLIS: So that’s an unaffordable scheme for you to run as a business in Cambridgeshire?
ANDY CAMPBELL: Well we’re not getting reimbursed for the level that we should be getting reimbursed. It’s actually costing us to carry pensioners. The whole idea of the scheme was we were no better and no worse off.
JEREMY SALLIS: So what will that mean then in the forthcoming year?. How soon will we feel the impact? Immediately?
ANDY CAMPBELL: The new system takes effect in April. And we’re trying to provide the best level of service we can, based on that reduced reimbursement.
JEREMY SALLIS: So what do you think the effect will be as far as .. the cuts will be seen as service cuts, will they? We’ll see less buses travelling, less routes across the County?
ANDY CAMPBELL: You will see that. Yes.
JEREMY SALLIS: To what extent. How significant a cut will we see?
ANDY CAMPBELL: Well we don’t actually know that, because we’re still planning those changes. But we were only told a few weeks ago, about the reductions, and we’re trying to work with the Council to provide for as much of the County that we can cover as possible, on a commercial basis.
JEREMY SALLIS: Do you think, for these routes on which you go out to the sticks, you go out into the Fens, the buses aren’t full, so they’re subsidised so you can run the services, but they provide a vital link for people between where they live and their local community, do you think that slack can be taken up by community transport, which is what the Council are suggesting?
ANDY CAMPBELL: No I don’t. I think there are some things that can be done, but I don’t think that’s enough to cover people who need to get to the doctors, the chemist, hospital, visiting friends.
JEREMY SALLIS: Why not? Why do you not think it’s enough?
ANDY CAMPBELL: Because I don’t think there will be enough volunteers, and there will be enough capacity to cope with the level of service we’ve had. Most of those areas have had an hourly service. People can then decide where they’re travelling and when they’re travelling. And to get that number of volunteers, and that number of vehicles, to do that, I think it’s highly unlikely.
JEREMY SALLIS: OK. Andy, thank you so much for joining us this morning. That’s Andy Campbell who’s the Managing Director of Stagecoach, who provide around 20 of those 50 subsidised bus routes which are at threat of being cut in Cambridgeshire, as we’ve heard already this morning.