Bus chief hits back

THREE of your correspondents have raised recent questions about bus services.

Mrs Curson, of Cayton, says she would be willing to pay something rather than travel free on her concessionary pass if it would help to keep some of the services running.

Many other pass holders have said the same, not only to us but in many other areas where bus services are now at risk from council contract cuts, very high fuel prices and big cuts in government funding, including greatly reduced payments to operators for the English Concessionary Travel Scheme.

The Conservative manifesto pledged the scheme will remain free to users, so bus operators are not allowed to charge any passenger presenting a concessionary pass for travel.

Anyone can keep the pass in their pocket and pay the adult fare if they wish at any time, but understandably not all would do this and some could not afford to do so. This would be unfair on those who chose to pay and would probably not produce enough extra revenue anyway given the size of the funding problems which has escalated greatly in quite a short time.

On many routes, free pass holders make up over half, and sometimes up to 80 per cent of all passengers, so it is vital that operators are properly paid for the Scheme. But this financial year EYMS as a whole will get over £800,000 less than last year, itself less than the year before, even though the number of pass holders travelling has not reduced. Inevitably, all this means is those routes with the highest proportion of pass holders among their passengers are at most risk.

Barry Pearson, a local election candidate, refers to the evening bus cuts, especially on the Bridlington to Scarborough route, saying that ‘people are taking another hiding from the bus company’. I don’t understand what he means by this. These evening cuts are due to the Local Authorities withdrawing funding, not to any decision by EYMS, but they are simply not sustainable without financial support. As to how many people travel on the 121 route after 6pm – the recent average was 80 each day over four journeys in each direction or just 10 passengers per journey, and many of these travelled for only a short part of the route.

J Large suggests we could use ‘red diesel’ which is the duty-free fuel available to farmers. I wish! That would save EYMS over £1 million this year. Instead, successive governments have increased the duty we pay and have also first frozen, and next year will cut by 20 per cent, the grant we get which is based on the amount of fuel we use. That cut in 2012 will cost us about £500,000 a year.

He also suggests that the Transport Minister should get involved. I have met Norman Baker, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, in London and written to him four times since November to highlight the size of the problems and the effects on passengers. His replies have been supportive, but I suspect his hands are tied by the Treasury.

Peter Shipp, chairman and chief executive, EYMS Group Ltd

EYMS Group Ltd