Thursday, October 11, 2007
Bus Cuts - Lib Dem challenge to Tory Leader
Dear Councillor Thornber,
Thank you for your detailed reply to my letter of 28 August but I am still not convinced by your defence of cuts to the bus subsidy. I do not accept that the entire saving had to be made at the sole expense of an essential public service. I suggest the 'options ...investigated' are obviously far too limited in scope, totally unimaginative and would benefit from a wider consultation with those who actually depend on public transport.
You say that, “ Services 1 and 5 are prime examples, where the County Council and the bus operators have invested heavily, resulting in substantial passenger growth.” There is a bit of a clue here, surely. That is, when there are regular and reliable services, people use them.You accept that these routes were identified as having the 'sufficient density of population' to justify an increase in daytime services yet bizarrely you propose scrapping Sunday evening services altogether. I realise you do not live in Winchester but I can assure that the days when residents attended church, had lunch and went to bed after 'Songs of Praise' are long gone. Winchester has a thriving evening economy including pubs, restaurants, a cinema and public services such as the railway and hospital, all of which operate well beyond 6pm on a Sunday. Staff and users have to get home somehow.
You say “the 'green' message is becoming more widely accepted”. Sadly this acceptance does not appear to extend to HCC. Did Cllr Read's recent comment, “All we do by providing subsidy ...is put money into slowing down the decline and prolong the agony,” indicate that HCC members see no future for public transport at all?
You say that your 'commitments' make relying on public transport 'impractical' and that 'Britain is highly car-dependent.' That is stating the obvious and the precise reason why you should be trying, even in a small way, to redress the balance. My challenge to you and Cllr Kendal to give up your cars for a week still stands. It is only a gesture, I know, but would at least be a demonstration that you accept the seriousness of the situation. In addition, it might give HCC some good publicity by showing it as a 'listening' council for a change.
Councillor Karen Barratt – member for St Paul ward, Winchester