Changes to buses approved

Bus lane, Terminus Road, Eastbourne. 7/11/13'Eastbourne busses
Bus lane, Terminus Road, Eastbourne. 7/11/13'Eastbourne busses

Pensioners and disabled people who qualify for free travel will only be able to use their bus passes after 9.30am as a result of county council cuts aimed at saving £2.23 million over the next three years.

Earlier this week East Sussex County Council’s cabinet voted to press ahead with a series of changes to bus travel – changes which included shifting the weekday start time for concessionary bus passes from 9am until half-an-hour later.

There are currently 125,000 concessionary bus pass holders across the county making around 8.2 million journeys a year.

The council also revealed plans to enter negotiations with bus companies to explore turning some currently-subsidised routes into commercial routes in an effort to save more cash.

It will also look into changing the eligibility criteria for companion passes, which allow disabled people who need help using the bus to be accompanied by another person travelling free of charge.

There are currently 2,064 people in East Sussex with companion passes and it is not clear how many of these will be affected if the council decides to change the guidelines.

The move follows a public consultation held in the summer which attracted more than 2,600 responses.

Cllr Carl Maynard, head of transport at county hall, said, “The message we received from the public was that retaining supported bus services and the concessionary scheme was more important than issues such as moving the start time at which passes can be used.

“These changes, which will affect a minority of people, are a sensible and pragmatic way of addressing the need to make savings, while avoiding the need for immediate, significant changes to the bus services we fund.

“The strategy which we will now initiate will provide us with a clear framework of priorities for the future of supported bus travel, and any changes to bus and community transport routes which follow from this will be consulted on next year.”

The county council has targeted £2.23 million in savings from its transport budget over the next three years – £570,000 in 2014-15 and £1.66 million in the following year.

The authority has already saved £227,000, or 40 per cent, of the amount it needs to save in 2014-15, through the retendering of supported bus services in the Lewes area and a joint contract with West Sussex County Council to administer the concessionary fare scheme.