Bus axe is inevitable'

PUBLISHED: 12:10 12 January 2007 | UPDATED: 22:30 28 May 2010

A SUNDAY bus service linking Wisbech and March with Cambridge - set to be axed shortly - has seen passenger numbers plummet in recent years. Cambridgeshire County Council says it can no longer afford to contribute the £42,657 a year subsidy, which has see

A SUNDAY bus service linking Wisbech and March with Cambridge - set to be axed shortly - has seen passenger numbers plummet in recent years.

Cambridgeshire County Council says it can no longer afford to contribute the £42,657 a year subsidy, which has seen numbers average just nine for the journey.

"It is with regret that change is inevitable," said Paul Nelson, the county's public transport manager.

The 19 service, on the Wisbech-March-Ely-Milton-Cambridge route, is the highest profile cut to hit Fenland out of 15 services across the county being axed.

The Sunday and Bank Holiday 337 service, which runs from Ely through Chatteris and March and into Peterborough, is also set for the chop.

Mr Nelson said the county council was paying £2.7million to subsidise 80 services where commercial contractors would not go otherwise.

"The result is the council provides a service that the operators won't commercially, funds the operator for doing so, and adds a further strain to already stretched budgets," he said.

"Less than half of the funding comes from Government. There is no guarantee that the Government funding will continue as the county council has to bid for it.

"In order to maintain contracted services, the shortfall is met from the council's own resources. There are strong pressures on the council's budget and constantly meeting a shortfall is clearly not sustainable."

Mr Nelson said in order to protect the highest priorities such as schools and social care, it has been decided, reluctantly, to reduce the money available to support contracted bus services.

He said the county had concluded that 65 of the 80 services it subsidises can continue, but for the remainder "we have to propose service changes".

Clive Lemmon, town clerk of March, said: "In fairness, there has to be a limit as to how far public transport can be subsidised.

"It's unfortunate these changes have occurred just as train fares have gone up so high.

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