Councillor Humby explained: “We’ve reached a watershed in how bus travel is supported. Bus travel in Hampshire continues to be a success, with the number of passengers increasing – a different story to the falling numbers we hear about in other parts of the country.
“However, even though 87% of bus services in Hampshire run without public subsidy, the well-publicised pressure on the County Council’s revenue budget means we can no longer afford the level of subsidies we have provided to operators in the past.
“We know a reduction in services would raise concerns across the county, as residents told us in our recent ‘Serving Hampshire’ consultation, but we are in a difficult financial position.
“Therefore, I was pleased to be able to get together with the leaders of Hampshire’s bus industry to see what we could do between us, to maintain the levels of public transport service, while reducing dependence on public subsidies.
“Together with the bus operators, we’ve invested in new infrastructure and new technology to improve bus travel, including contactless payments, on board Wi-Fi, next stop announcements and real time information. By making bus travel more comfortable, reliable and attractive, we’ve worked hard to encourage more bus passengers which means that services have a better chance of operating independent of public subsidy, into the future.
“In these times of ongoing pressure on local authority budgets, I believe this is the way forward. Ensuring that a good public transport network continues to operate in Hampshire will support greater travel choices for everyone, and help address issues like congestion, accessibility and air quality. I’m keen to press for improvements, and welcome commitments from the bus companies that they will play their part in supporting financially sustainable bus travel. This will ensure that any funding the County Council is able to provide for bus subsidies can be targeted at the areas of greatest need.”
Councillor Rob Humby met with Marc Reddy - Managing Director for First Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire, Edward Hodgson – Managing Director, Stagecoach South and Andrew Wickham – Managing Director, Go South Coast.
Hampshire County Council has been looking at options for closing a £140 million shortfall in its budget by April 2019, due to the County Council’s revenue support grant from Government soon coming to an end, rising inflation, and significant numbers of elderly people, younger adults and children needing social care. Proposals will be finalised at the meeting of the full County Council on 22 February 2018.