LETTER: Small family firms will be hit the most by bus-service cuts

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Many spleens have been vented recently over the latest round of cuts to supported bus services.

I’m not going to get into the politics of who is responsible for the cuts or where the cuts should fall or who has wasted money in the past - I’ll leave that to those in one of the three different taxpayer-funded council headquarters off Bank Road in Matlock.

I do not believe it is a coincidence that such cuts have taken place since the introduction of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, colloquially known as ‘the free bus pass’.

Bus firms, many of which are small family-run concerns (one of which will cease operating bus services altogether on the day of the cuts), are reimbursed a small fraction of the lost cash revenue when a free bus pass is used.

Contrary to popular belief this is not a subsidy, in the same way that if I forcibly took a loaf of bread from Tesco and paid it 20 pence for it, I’d be partially reimbursing, not subsidising them.

This means that on little-used supported services such as the ones about to be cut, not only is the county council paying for the service and paying a small contribution towards the lost cash fares, but bus firms are losing around two-thirds of the revenue, meaning they are less likely to maintain such marginal services. I saw this coming ten years ago.

Perhaps if free pass holders had voluntarily paid fares on Sunday services, which would have reduced the reimbursement burden on the council (waiting for some mealy-mouthed response about ‘different budgets’, any excuse) and given bus firms the revenue to which they are entitled rather than just a tiny bit of it, maybe those services would remain.

Alfred Crofts

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