Our Bus Service: Ward Councillors for the Chew Valley, Dr Dave Harding and Anna Box, express their 'frustration and disappointment' over bus cuts in a letter to the Chew Valley Gazette.

Dear Editor,

Chew Valley

We would like to express our frustration and disappointment that WECA has decided to follow through on its plan not to fund any scheduled buses in the Chew Valley.

WECA knew from two years of consultation work with the Chew Valley Area Forum, that a spine of a scheduled service was needed to support the Westlink Demand Responsive Transport Service to provide a reliable commuter and community service that people could depend on.

Despite WECA being,

1) the bus authority,

2) given £57m to pay for bus improvements,

3) told by central government that this money can be used for this express purpose,

4) able to give £8m worth of freebies towards free tickets for those who have bus routes during the month when users have birthdays,

5) able to find, very recently, a new pot of nearly £0.5m of money for buses,

6) B&NES having increased its funds for supporting regular buses by 30% to £1m to ensure that the bus ran to the end of the school year and to ease the transition for Westlink services,

WECA will not support the rural communities such as ours.

In addition the Chew Valley Sustainable Transport Group, who have tried hard as early adopters to make Westlink work- acting virtually as a free pilot project for WECA, have called for the continuation of the 672 as Westlink does not have the capacity and that Westlink can not be relied on as an on-demand service to get passengers to school and work without it becoming a timetabled service in the morning and afternoon/evening.

The WECA Mayor has spent millions on the new on-demand service, Westlink. This has had a rocky start since it was soft launched in April, with not enough drivers and a lack of reliability.

WECA is aware that it cannot, at the moment, replace the regular bus services that people can plan their lives around.

B&NES has suggested that if WECA ran some on a regular timetable in the morning and evening (a hybrid service), it would solve some of the problems, build up trust, and make it more cost effective. So far this has also been rejected by WECA.

WECA also says it cannot extend services or commission new ones without assessing their value for money, but this ignores the social value of the 672, and of having a reliable service to get to school, work, healthcare, and other vital appointments.

Should residents wish to write to the WECA mayor, who has sole control over this, to express their dismay and disappointment his email is: [email protected].

Dr Dave Harding, Anna Box, Ward Councillors for the Chew Valley.