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Bus Cuts Loom in Cornwall

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7:01am 19th September 2013

Getting the bus may be about to get more difficult in Cornwall.

Pirate FM has learnt Western Greyhound services in Penzance and Hayle are at risk.

We have seen a notice to staff warning jobs could have to go.

First is thought to be considering the future of some services in Falmouth.

Bosses say they are hammering out details with the council.

In a letter to staff Western Greyhound MD Mark Howarth wrote: "Most of you will have read in the press that Cornwall Council's budget is under significant pressure. We have been notified that due to budget cuts, the council will be withdrawing financial suppport for a number of services, some of which are operated by Western Greyhound.

"It is with regret that I therefore advise you that Western Greyhound will no longer be operating any services in the Penzance and Hayle areas (other than the summer 547), or the 530 and 56 routes, or some lightly loaded 'tendered' journeys on some other routes.

“This will therefore mean a reduction in the number of buses in the fleet and a reduction in the number of roles. This decision by Cornwall Council in no way reflects the quality of services provided.

"Western Greyhound is not the only bus operator having contracts reduced and services of other operators are also affected.

“A formal consultation period will begin shortly for all staff affected and we are currently working on the implications of this decision from the council to withdraw financial support for services. This will be a worrying time for you but please be assured that as a company we will do everything we can to limit the impact of such a decision on employees.

"We have a strong core of commercial services and we will be actively developing these routes over the coming months.

"As further information becomes available, I assure you I will be in touch to keep you updated on developments."

Bert Biscoe, who is in charge of transport at Cornwall Council said: "We share the concerns which have been expressed by Mr Howarth over the future of bus services in Cornwall as a result of cuts in Government funding.

"The Council has already been forced to make savings of £170m over the past four years as a result of these cuts and is now facing having to make further savings of £196m by 2019.  We are also facing increasing pressure on the concessionary fares budget which we are legally required to support.  While we are doing our best to protect essential frontline services, it is impossible to make this level of savings without affecting some services.  

"Maintaining good public transport links is very important in a rural area like Cornwall and we have been working with all the bus operators to look at how best to protect bus services from the impact of further cuts in Government funding.

"90% of the bus network in Cornwall is provided by First and Western Greyhound.  Over the past two months we have held detailed discussions with both companies to identify how savings could be made.  

"One of the proposals which was put forward by Western Greyhound at the beginning of this process was to withdraw all their services from the Penwith area. We recognise the impact this would have on local communities and have been endeavouring to work with the company to identify alternative options.  Ultimately, however, this is a commercial decision for the bus operator. 

"If Western Greyhound does go ahead with its proposal, we will be working with other operators to deliver the best possible level of services within the available funding."

Meanwhile, Falmouth councillor Candy Atherton says she has been told First is planning to withdraw some services in the town. She said: "Older people and those without a car will struggle and we will end up with more cars parked on our already congested roads as people are forced to get a car. 

"This will trap people in their homes. This is bad news for Falmouth and I call on First to reconsider before the services are withdrawn."

7:01am 19th September 2013

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