Rural bus service subsidies axed

COUNCIL chiefs are axing subsidies for rural bus services in east Durham on evenings and Sundays.

Durham County Council will scrap the facility across the county from Sunday, April 17, in a bid to cut 1.3m from its 4.5m bus transport budget.

A public consultation run by the council showed that the majority of respondents are in favour of the council continuing to subsidise daytime services.

They indicated a preference primarily that funding be withdrawn from Sunday/bank holiday services and secondly evening services, if required.

The news comes as the council tries to save 114.6m by 2015 after the announcement of the Government settlement.

The move has been criticised as "killing rural communities".

But Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: "The major reductions in Government grant have forced many tough decisions on the council and sadly one of these has been that we have no choice but to spend the limited funds we have on the areas seen as the highest priorities.

"During recent public consultation on reducing support for bus services, residents have made it clear they wish daytime services to be protected.

"The second priority expressed was evening services, with Sunday services seen as less important.

"As a result, and working in partnership with the bus operators, we are seeking to maintain our support for daytime services, continue to offer more limited subsidy to certain key evening services and withdraw our financial support for Sunday services altogether.

"It is important to emphasise that the council does not provide bus services, but subsidises routes which may otherwise not be commercially viable."