Metro Mayor James Palmer has approved the formation of a new bus task force that will look into the provision of bus services in Cambridgeshire.

Speaking at the meeting of the Combined Authority (CAPCA), the mayor said: “We all know how dismal rural bus services currently are, and commuters cannot get to work as there are no busses to and from where they want to go.

“The future of bus provision in Cambridgeshire relies on improving bus partnerships over the next few years, and so that is why I want this bus task force to be formed to look into the matter.”

Cambridge City Cllr Lewis Herbert (Labour) said: “We all know that bus service providers in this county are not keen on the idea of franchising or enhancing bus service partnerships, why would they? They have an almost complete monopoly.

“Since we took over transport authority powers, it has become obvious that Stagecoach and the other bus companies have a complete monopoly over us, rather than the other way around.

“My constituents tell me that they cannot rely on a timetable for the busses that do run, that tickets bought from one company are not honoured by other companies and that services to rural areas are nothing short of appalling.”

South Cambs District Cllr Bridget Smith (LibDem) added: “We must make some serious decisions about how we improve bus services throughout Cambridgeshire before we approve any changes.

“I welcome the new bus task force and ask that it act with immediate effect to try to help some of the rural bus users, rather than wait all the way through to 2021 when it reports back to the board.”

The board recognised that critical issues need to be identified and funding found for the scheme, but given the geography of the region new incentives will need to be found such as community bus services, crowd-sourcing of services to test out new potential routes and the inclusion of 'feeder hubs', to connect low access areas to core transport links.

There was also mention of subsidised routes, but again funding would be the issue and where it would come from.

Peterborough City Cllr John Holdich (Con) dissented however, saying: “I am happy to make reductions to bus services if nobody is using them.

“It costs over £150k per year to run a bus, and companies will always challenge routes that don't pay.”

The board unanimously approved the formation of the bus task force with immediate effect, but it will not report its findings until March 2021.