Budget cuts threaten St Albans district’s bus services

The 653 bus service in St Albans

The 653 bus service in St Albans - Credit: Archant

Proposed bus cuts of up to £887,000 have led to warnings that there could be a significant drop in services.

The county council is proposing cuts between £700,000-£887,000, which could affect up to 39 services across Herts, including five services in the St Albans and Harpenden area.

The cuts could see the 602, 653, S1, S4, and W1 services stop after 6.30pm on weekdays with some also stopping entirely on Sundays.

The proposal applies to journeys which the county council supports and which the commercial sector would not otherwise provide. The county council’s rationale is that passenger numbers are lower in the evenings and variable on Sundays so providing such services is not good value for money.

The 653 service in particular was plagued with problems last year when the introduction of a new timetable because of congestion problems in St Albans led to complaints about delays and unreliability from people reliant upon it.

Lib Dem county councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst said: “This is a decimation of the bus service, making cuts to 36 per cent of the bus routes and isolating residents who want to or need to use buses at night and on a Sunday.

“It means if you rely on a county funded bus, you do not go out at night! That is a disgrace!”

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The council currently subsidises bus services from 10p up to £9 per person, and need to find ways to reduce this.

But Terry Douris, cabinet member for highways, said: “Like all local authorities, Hertfordshire County Council is facing major pressures on our budget.

“Over the last four years we have made savings of £149m a year while protecting essential front line services.

“However, a similar amount needs to be saved by 2017/18, so difficult decisions will have to be made.”

From this week, the public will be able to give their opinion on the proposed cuts through a survey either online, via email, or on paper until September 30.

The results of the public consultation will be discussed and a final decision made in November, with any changes implemented by April 2015.

To take part in the survey visit: www.hertsdirect.org/busconsult, email hertsdirect@hertfordshire.gov.uk, or request a paper copy by calling 0300 123 4050.