LETTER: Cuts to bus services could be devastating

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin  at Community Transport Calderdale Ltd where  he announced �25m in grants for rural buses.  17 November 2014.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin at Community Transport Calderdale Ltd where he announced �25m in grants for rural buses. 17 November 2014. Picture Bruce Rollinson

I write regarding the shocking bus service cuts which Derbyshire County Council are proposing to save money as a result of cuts in funding from central government.

I now live in Sheffield, but grew up in rural Derbyshire and have not forgotten what a lifeline the local bus services felt like in being able to get out and about as a teenager starting to find my own place in the world. It is not a county well-served by train lines following the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, thus making the buses even more vital.

Derbyshire and in particular the Peak District is an area whose many local businesses rely heavily on tourist trade, and these proposed cutbacks will surely have a devastating effect on them.

If they go ahead, then those like me who don’t drive by choice (or prefer to leave the car at home unless really necessary) can kiss goodbye to being able to wake up at the weekend, see it’s a nice day, and spontaneously deciding on nipping out for a family day trip to a nice Derbyshire country village.

And the cafes, gift shops and tourist attractions in this hypothetical village can consequently kiss goodbye to my money ending up in their tills. Instead, a network of ten minibuses serving the entire county to enable residents who are unable or unwilling to drive a car to get to essential doctors’ appointments and shopping trips via a pre-booked place.

This much less desirable replacement system would only save three quarter of the current costs spent on public transport.

At the time of writing the council’s own website, on the ‘Sustainable Travel and Smarter Choices’ section states that “We want to help you think about transport and help you move towards more sustainable travel options such as walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing. We ask people who live and work in the county, or who just visit, to think twice about their travel choices and to consider more sustainable travel options such as those listed above,” before going on to list the various health, financial and environmental benefits that this will give to them.

The proposed cutbacks will seriously undermine their own agenda, to the point where it’s a little embarrassing for it all actually to still be there in black and white online at the same time as this destructive public transport consultation. In a world facing environmental pressures like never before, cutting public transport in this way is an immoral move by the council and would only serve to increase accidents, traffic jams and pollution on Derbyshire’s roads.

These measures will surely help to turn rural areas of Derbyshire into a millionaire’s playground, forcing ordinary local residents to up sticks and move to the cities to be able to live within walking distance of their employment - it’ll be the 19th century all over again. And will lead to similar tensions that are currently experienced in Cornwall, with four-by-four driving, quilted jacketed nouveaux-riche colonising the county by buying up property as weekend holiday homes, forcing locals out of the property market.

Pulling subsidy from public transport services county-wide is not the answer to the class warfare being inflicted on the ordinary working folk of Derbyshire by their own government.

The faux-austerity measures currently in place are an entirely ideologically driven agenda, which - as figures released this week show - is not even doing anything towards the stated aim of reducing the country’s deficit.

Neither is it fair to potentially put hundreds of hard-working bus drivers out of work, thus increasing that deficit further by (a) wiping the amount of income tax that comes out of all their collective earnings and (b) having to support them all with jobseeker’s allowance. Demolishing Derbyshire’s public transport network leaving the elderly, disabled and young stranded in remote rural villages is not the appropriate actions of a supposedly civilised society, and I would urge anyone who uses public transport in the county to fill out the consultation survey either online or on printed copies available at another vital local service, public libraries, before the deadline of April 24.

And to Derbyshire County Council I would say unless they want to be viewed by our descendants with the same reputation for short-sightedness now universally conferred on Dr Richard Beeching, please think again about what they are proposing.

Richard Bradley

By email