291 Tenbury to Kidderminster bus link is 'saved'

A VITAL bus link between Tenbury and Kidderminster appears to have been saved.

The governing cabinet at Worcestershire County Council this week accepted a compromise that will see the heavily subsidised 291 service retained.

However, there may be some changes to the timetable on the service that links Tenbury with Kidderminster via villages and hamlets in the Teme Valley.

Ken Pollock, who represents Tenbury on Worcestershire County Council, had been optimistic that the bus service would be retained but said that he does not know what the changes might be to the timetable.

The service had looked destined for the axe as the County Council sought to make extensive savings to its transport budget.

But there has been a rethink following a consultation period and a high profile campaign to save the service.

The service that carries almost 22,000 passengers a year is one of the most subsidised in the county cost council tax payers £3.11 for every passenger journey.

Following the consultation it has been decided that despite the high level of subsidy the route will continue because it provides a key link between a rural and urban area.

The key factors that saved the 291 are that it is considered very important in tackling rural isolation and that it is used for important journeys like getting people to college, work and hospital appointments.

A survey undertaken by George Price, the former Mayor of Tenbury, showed that the 291 is widely used by students to get to college in Kidderminster as well as by people getting to work and those needing or travel for hospital and other medical appointments.

The decision to retain the 291 and other services marks a major handbrake turn for the County Council and follows the consultation that received 8,500 responses.

Originally a full withdrawal of the £3million of taxpayers' money used to subsidise bus services – usually the less popular or less well-used services – was proposed.

The County Council needs to save around £20 to 25million per annum over the next four years due to reduced levels of Central Government funding and demographic pressures.

Under the changes agreed this week £1.6 million will be shed from the transport budget.

Around 80 per cent of bus journeys (approx.12million) in Worcestershire are made on commercial services, which were not part of the review.

A number of services that have previously received subsidies will operate on a commercial basis and those linking to schools, rural areas, health services and providing access to essential shopping areas will largely remain in place with some change to frequency levels.

Where appropriate and in line with the comments from the consultation, some fares will see a modest increase.

The changes agreed at Cabinet will not be put in place until September.

However, Labour members of the County Council have asked for the Cabinet decision to be ‘called in’ for examination by the scrutiny committee.

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