BUS routes across town are to be axed after the council pulled the plug on their funding support.

From June, a dozen evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday services will wind down, including one serving the Great Western Hospital, because the council has cut £100,000-worth of subsidies to the bus companies.

The Adver only learned of the changes after resident Peter Gallagher spotted the following phrase in small print at the bottom of Stagecoach’s website: “We regret that as a result of the total withdrawal of Swindon Borough Council funding for evening and Sunday bus services in Swindon, that further changes will have to be introduced from Sunday 5th June 2011 and full details will be given nearer the time.”

Mr Gallagher wrote to the council asking if it was true and the council agreed, saying that the decision had been made “as part of the determination of the budget process for 2011/12.”

Mr Gallagher, 61, of Folkestone Road, relies on one of the soon-to-go services for arranging outings with the rambling club.

“As far as I know this has never been on the agenda at a cabinet meeting,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem to be the way local government should be operating.

“It doesn’t seem right to me that this type of decision should have been able to have been made without any kind of public prior warning; that people are going to be affected, but nobody has had the opportunity to make representations about it.

“I use the bus to go walking in the countryside. From a ramblers’ point of view it’s a decision we regret.

“These changes won’t have a big impact on me personally but I think there are quite a lot of people who don’t have a car and inevitably are going to be inconvenienced if these services stop completely.”

The changes were part of the budget proposals agreed in February.

But the details of the planned cuts were not stated, and have not been discussed in any council meetings.

In a statement, the council said: “The vast majority of bus services in Swindon run without any subsidy from the council, but we do support some routes that would otherwise be uneconomical for the bus companies to operate.

“We will be spending nearly £1m on these over the next 12 months.

“Budget pressures meant that we had to find savings of £100,000 on this year’s budget, and this was included in our budget proposals that were agreed earlier this year.

“The bus companies and elected members were consulted about these proposals.

“Our priority is to support bus services that allow people access to education and employment in the morning and evening peak, and to daytime activities such as access to shops.

“To keep the effects to the minimum possible, we have withdrawn funding for uneconomic services which operate on Sundays and Bank Holidays or during the evenings from Monday to Saturday.”

It also said it was not aware that the number 24, serving the hospital, would be affected.

Stagecoach have since announced that they will continue to operate the evening and weekend services, without the council funding, to assess their commerical viability before taking a final decision.


THE bus companies have hit out at the move, saying Swindon Council will deprive communities of a much-needed service.

A statement issued by Stagecoach said: "We are disappointed that Swindon Borough Council has decided to significantly reduce funding for socially-necessary local bus services as a result of cuts in Government expenditure.

"The Council's decision will affect many services, including evening, Sunday and rural buses, which may not have sufficient passengers to meet the operating costs. It is clear that, where funding for tendered services is withdrawn, these services could be lost to the communities they serve.

"In addition to cuts in tendered and supported bus services, local authorities are cutting the reimbursement payments we receive for elderly and disabled people qualifying for free concession bus travel.

"Bus operators are also suffering the same high fuel price increases as other road users, as well as being impacted by higher gas and electricity charges.

"The combined effect is that, reluctantly, we will be forced to increase our prices and regret the problems this will cause for some passengers.

"We will continue to work hard to keep the effects to a minimum, providing value for money travel and as wide a bus network as possible.

"Independent research shows Stagecoach offers the lowest fares of any major bus operator in the country and we provide unlimited travel in Swindon from just £13 per week."

"In this particular instance all services will operate as per the normal timetables for a period after the funding is withdrawn so that we can analyse their commercial viability."

Meanwhile, Thamesdown’s managing director Paul Jenkins said: “Thamesdown will extend its commercial service on Service 11 up to 20.00 hours to partially fill the gap, but apart from this I’m afraid the evening service on these routes will cease as they do not carry enough passengers to meet the cost of running the services.

“I am sorry for the inconvenience this will cause our passengers.

“The changes mean that there will be no evening Service 24 buses between Fleming Way and the Great Western Hospital via Old Town and Lawn.

“However, passengers in Old Town will still be able to use Service 70A to and from the hospital as it is financially supported by Wiltshire Council.

“Also, Service 16, which runs between Fleming Way and the hospital via Queen’s Drive every 15 minutes, will continue, with the last bus leaving the hospital at 22.15.”