Bus service cuts ‘not too deep’ so far

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BUS passengers in the district have avoided the bumpy ride suffered by many others across the county because of routes and services being axed.

Two of the bus companies who serve South Holland said Spalding and surrounding area has got off quite lightly after fears earlier in the year that funding cuts and the tough economic climate could have serious consequences.

But the future is still unclear as the financial crisis continues and bus companies face taking a hard hit from changes to the fuel duty rebate from next April.

Ben Coulson, director of Norfolk Green, which runs the service between Sutton Bridge and Spalding, fears the 20 per cent cut in the fuel tax rebate alone will cost his company £250,000.

Any further changes to the way companies are reimbursed for bus-pass carrying passengers will see that total rise further.

But he said he is hopeful that the popularity of the existing service, which this year has been upped from every half an hour to every 20 minutes, could “cushion the blow” and allow South Holland services to remain relatively unaffected.

He said: “The situation with cuts this year has been a bit of a mixed bag on the whole, but our main route in South Holland has been doing sufficiently well that we were able to take the hit to our subsidy on the nose.

“But I am doing some work now to try to assess what will happen next year, but with the fuel tax rebate cut is bound to have some effect and that’s bound to be negative.

“But again, in South Holland the rate of growth for adult fare-paying passengers on that route should be sufficiently great to cushion the impact.”

And Malcolm Wheatley, operations manager at Brylaine, said the only cuts this year had been a reduction in the Spalding to Boston service on a Spalding from half-hourly to hourly.

But he reinforced the difficulties bus companies will face from April, although he said he hopes passengers in South Holland will not have too much to worry about.