Monday, 6 February 2012

No Takers for Cambridge Minibus Scheme

Cambridgeshire County Council's attempt to find an alternative to the expensively-subsidised rural bus service appears to have gone off the road a bit.

More to the point, and excuse me while I use yet another bus-related analogy, the whole scheme has hardly left the garage.

It turns out that the first of what is meant to be a series of demand-responsive community minibus schemes in fact only carried just one passenger in its first month of operation - though to be fair that one person did account for three journeys.

It is an inauspicious start for a community minibus service which is meant to be the first of three pilot Local Link services, with the other two yet to get underway.

Not surprisingly, people from different sides of the political divide (even though their national leaders are meant to be in coalition) have been quick criticise. The transport spokeswoman for the Lib Democrats, who are in opposition, rounded on the Council's leaders. “The Conservatives claim their new project will be a model of efficiency, but in seven weeks it has transported one passenger at a cost of £120,000,” she fumes.

“The project has not been thought through: a year ago, the administration saw bus subsidies as an easy way of clawing back money to bolster finances. Council leaders didn’t want empty buses running round the county – and now they have used taxpayers’ money to buy new minibuses which are standing empty.”

Ian Bates, the council’s cabinet member for growth and planning, describes the scheme, with mild understatement ,as 'disappointing'.

“We have already learnt a lot from what we have done in Duxford. In particular, we need to be clearer on how we work with the local communities to scope new services.

“That said, it is disappointing how it has worked out and we need to look for future schemes to be better.”

I've no doubt the bus companies who were previously running the subsidised services which were replaced by the minibus scheme will be happy tell the council that it probably should have left the whole thing to the experts in the first place.

Still, at least the council is saving money on diesel.

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