Essex County Council has launched a consultation to find out how important evening and Sunday local bus services are to Essex residents.
The council wants your views on some proposed changes and how future services could affect communities. You can read more and take part in the consultation, which runs until 22 March 2019, at: www.essex.gov.uk/local-bus-consultation.
As is the case in most of England outside London, the majority of the bus network in Essex (around 85%) is run commercially. Commercial bus services do not form part of this review, this includes most of the daytime and peak period services in and between towns. The remaining 15% of services are not commercially viable and the commercial bus operators will not therefore run them.
As Essex’s local transport authority, where no commercial service is provided, the County Council has a duty to consider whether one is needed and if, in the Council’s view it is, then to provide it.
How the Council decides whether a service is needed and what services it will support are set out in its Local Bus Strategy 2015 to 2020, which can be found here https://www.essexhighways.org/uploads/files/local%20bus%20service%20priority%20policy%202015%20to%202020.pdf.
The services provided under this policy are paid for by Essex taxpayers. The supported network mainly operates in rural areas, and at less popular times for travel, such as in the evenings and on Sundays. At present ECC spends around £9m of taxpayers money on these services each year.
ECC says it has a strong record for supporting local bus services, especially when compared to the situation with many other local transport authorities across the country, where there have been significant reductions in the level of support offered. The council says it remains committed to supporting an effective and efficient bus service network offering value for money to the taxpayer in the services it provides.
However, it adds that the strong financial pressure on all local government funding means that it has to look very carefully at how it provides all its services to make sure that the limited funding available is focused where it will do most good.