County council could offer reprieve for bus routes at risk of axe

A review of bus services in Cambridgeshire is to be carried out by the county council.

A review of bus services in Cambridgeshire is to be carried out by the county council. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council could step in to offer a temporary reprieve to some of the bus services in Huntingdonshire that are due to be cut, after the operator running them announced it was withdrawing from a number of unprofitable routes.

Whippet Coaches revealed last month that many of its routes were operating at a loss because of rising costs and stagnant subsidies, but the county council is now looking at alternatives for some of the routes, albeit temporarily.

Of the 16 services due to be cut, a handful of the services run by Whippet are already contracted by the county council, while others are commercial routes. Currently, the council spends £268,857 on the contracted services and it could be set to dip into its bus reserve fund to find alternative operators for the commercial services for a year – but with a reduced timetable.

A briefing to councillors who sit on the economy and environment committee said: “Officers have been in discussion with Whippet Coaches to see if replacement services can be provided within existing resources.

“These discussions have assumed that where there is duplication with other commercial services, such as between Bar Hill and Cambridge, that replacements will not be provided.

“In addition, officers have not requested a quotation to cover areas that are better served by existing community transport schemes, such as the Monday only journey to St Ives from Holywell.”

As well as seeking alternative providers for some of the affected routes, the council is proposing to allocate funding from its local bus service reserves for up to one year, with the funds coming from the Cambridgeshire Future Transport or the Community Transport schemes.

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“The level of these replacement services will depend on the bids received within the available funding,” the briefing added.

As part of its proposal, the council is also likely to carry out a nine-month review of contracted bus services and community transport provision, “with a view to identifying further efficiencies and alternative means of provision”.

Services affected in Huntingdonshire include the 1, 1A, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 21, and 45/45A, which, between them, cover St Ives, Fenstanton, Hilton, the Hemingfords, Papworth, Huntingdon, Colne, Somersham, Earith, Bluntisham, Needingworth, Ramsey, Warboys, Pidley, Wyton, and Houghton.

A vote on the proposals will take place on Thursday.