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We should be ashamed of bus service in Cambridge - it needs subsidising,' says councillor


By Josh Thomas | Local Democracy Reporter


Should our bus services be subsidised?
Should our bus services be subsidised?

It's easier to drive than use the bus, claims Cllr John Williams

Cambridge should be “utterly ashamed” of its public transport system, it has been claimed, as councillors call for some bus routes to be subsidised to improve service.

Cllr John Williams said he was “appalled” that it was still easier to drive from places on the fringes of Cambridge like Cherry Hinton than it was to catch public transport.

He suggested that the Greater Cambridge Partnership (a multi-group organisation set up to encourage the sustainable growth of the city and surrounding area) should help subsidise bus routes that are not well served by private operators. This, he said, would help keep regular services running on routes that were less well served.

Speaking at the GCP’s joint assembly meeting today (June 14), Cllr Williams said the city was facing a “crisis, now” and that short-term solutions, like improved buses, were needed to ease traffic before longer-term solutions, like an underground “metro” system, could be brought in. He said, however, that poorly serviced routes were problematic, and that people would always choose to drive if public transport was unreliable or infrequent.

“We are having a crisis now,” said Cllr Williams. “It’s a crisis that is going to grow exponentially in the next few years, before we can think about more long-term solutions to traffic.”

Cllr Williams said the main mode of public transport in Cambridgeshire is the bus. He said measures to bring in a bus franchise would take years, and that the GCP needed to work alongside existing companies like Stagecoach and Whippet to make services better.

“Even if people live in the city in places like Cherry Hinton, it is easier to get in your car than it is to get on the bus,” said Cllr Williams. “That is appalling. It is something we should be utterly ashamed of.

“We should be prepared to subsidise an enhanced bus service so we can achieve that shift from people using cars to public transport. If we continue to wait and wait, I am afraid things are just going to get worse and worse because of the increase in traffic congestion.”

GCP transport director Peter Blake said whatever happened, the city needed to have a bold solution to its public transport system.

“The public transport network needs to change quite markedly,” said Mr Blake. “We need to make sure people can get into, and around, the city.

“They need to get to the biomedical campus and to the science park. Designing the system we think we need will throw up a host of issues. We need to look at how we can afford it too. We need to build services people can have confidence in.”

Cllr Nicky Massey said more should be done to help make public transport more affordable. She said that, at the moment, the cost of some journeys was prohibitive, and that more people would make the shift from cars to public transport if buses were cheaper to use.

Read more

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Franchise the buses? You need money in the tank - Opinion by Andy Campbell, Stagecoach East



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