We live in era of draconian cuts to local public services. Cuts to bus routes have always been on the agenda of Shropshire Council. Many councillors see them primarily as a cost to the public purse. These are councillors that almost never catch buses.
Here in Ludlow, our town services are social service, keeping people active and independent. The good news is that both the 701 and the 722 will be continue to be subsidised by Shropshire Council for the time being. I reckon that’s for a year at least.
Much will depend on the new administration after the Shropshire Council elections on 4 May. If we have a hardliner in charge of the transport portfolio, we can expect the worst. But with luck, we will have someone how understands the contribution a regular, high quality service can make to communities, as well as to the the health and wellbeing of the people who rely on buses to get around.
The article below first appeared in the Ludlow Advertiser on 16 February 2017.
I like buses. They are not just a way of getting from one place to another. Buses are a community room on wheels, a social service and an essential part of rural life.
If you hop on the 701 or 722 Ludlow town service any morning, the chances are you will find people chatting away just as they do in the cafes of the town.
Passengers are sharing local news and enquiring about each other’s health. If someone boards the bus at the wrong time, is confused or in need of help, they’ll be supported by the driver and passengers. This is a vital service in a town that has an ageing population and nearly 250 people registered with dementia.
One in four households in our town don’t own a car. Only a quarter of homes have two or more cars. That makes buses vital to the functioning of our community, providing people with access to shops, medical facilities and social life. Ludlow wouldn’t function without volunteers, many of whom travel by bus.
To some administrators and far too many councillors, buses are no more than a line in a spreadsheet. Public transport is regarded as a burden on the public purse which must be reduced in an era of cuts. This would be a false economy. If we trap people in their homes, their wellbeing will suffer. People will be lonely. Health and social care costs will rise.
That’s why Ludlow Town Council has made the right decision by giving a grant to sustain the Ludlow to Hereford bus service via Leominster. If we want to support our community, we must fund our buses.