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Three more Cambridgeshire bus services could disappear

Three bus services could end if new providers are not found, after the current bus companies announced plans to hand back the contracts to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

A2B has told the authority that it will be surrendering two bus routes: 46, which runs once a week between Linton and Newmarket, and 15, which runs once a week between Haslingfield and Royston.

Bus operators no longer want to operate three existing routes
Bus operators no longer want to operate three existing routes

Whippet has also informed the Combined Authority that it will be surrendering the route 61/61X contract - the Eynesbury Tesco to St Neots Circular.

A report presented to the transport and infrastructure committee last Wednesday (March 15) said officers had looked at whether the existing contract with Ting – an ‘Uber-style’ demand responsive transport service – could be used to compensate for the loss of the 61/61X route.

However, it said it was decided there was “insufficient capacity on that service to cater for the additional customers and provide the desired service to more rural areas”.

The Combined Authority’s Board will be asked on Wednesday (March 22) to agree for the authority to ask for quotes for replacement contracts for the services.

If the board does not agree to retender the services, Tim Bellamy, the interim head of transport, said the route 61/61X would come to an end on Friday, March 24, and the other two services would end at some point in April.

Cllr Anna Smith, chair of the committee and the Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, said there was “real concern” about the routes and said the authority needed to “ensure we do not lose routes that are vital for residents”.

The committee could not make a formal recommendation to the board to retender the routes, due to not enough members attending on the day, but the councillors present said they supported the decision.

Last year, the Combined Authority stepped in with funding to help support the retendering of a series of bus routes abandoned by Stagecoach East, which deemed them commercially unviable. The cost of continuing to support those routes in the coming financial year led to a controversial decision to impose a new layer of council tax from April, meaning Band D householders in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough face a new £12 annual charge to the Combined Authority.

Meanwhile, the Combined Authority has been discussing its new bus strategy, which suggests franchising could be the best way to improve services.

A report to last week’s meeting says: “Our ambition is to see Cambridgeshire and Peterborough at the forefront of excellent public transport provision. Therefore, we aim to transform bus travel – offering high levels of convenience and connectivity – not just in our urban areas, but across the entire region, including rural areas and market towns; something not not seen on such a scale anywhere else in the UK.”

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