Dear Cllr Johnson,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Epping Forest Transport Action Group (EFTAG) with some comments and questions about your recent statements on bus service cuts and fare increases.
We appreciate that Essex County Council is under increasing financial pressure but bus services are vital to get people to work and education, and reduce social isolation. Research we’re currently carrying out shows that people have had to turn down or leave jobs because of inadequate public transport. Others are forced to drive, which has well known consequences for public health and the environment.
We don’t feel that your comment that some services cost the County Council £5 per passenger takes into account the wider benefits of public transport for local economies. Research by the Campaign for Better Transport has found that every £1 of public investment in buses provides between £3 and £5 in wider benefits.
As you rightly say, some of these services are underused. What steps has the County Council taken to increase bus use? Rather than cutting essential services shouldn’t we be encouraging more people to use them?
Regarding the fare increases, our current research shows that one of the primary reasons cited for not using public transport is the cost. Instead of increasing fares we need to be reducing them.
We currently spend millions in subsidies to bus companies. Has any consideration been given to the County Council taking over the lesser used services, thereby eliminating the subsidies and ensuring all of the fares go back to the Council? This has been done with great success in several towns/cities, including Lothian Buses, who returned £5.5 million to the public purse, and Reading Buses who returned £3 million.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email. We look forward to your reply,