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Bus Cuts and Spending on Road Improvements.

With some 10,000 responses to Wiltshire Council’s consultation in 2016 and 6,000 signatures on a petition to force a debate in Council, there is no shortage of public involvement to show how important the buses are.

Indeed buses form a vital part of sustainable transport which is purportedly the Council’s aim.  Experience has shown that the more roads you have the more cars there are.  When a new road is built development follows so there may be relief for a short time but the traffic soon builds up and becomes worse. The way out of congestion is for journeys to be by train and bus, cycling, walking, and car sharing. 


There is another reason the buses are so important.  They transport the workers and those who have no other means of transport, the young, the elderly and the disabled.  Take hospital appointments.  If the buses only run every two hours instead of every hour, one routine appointment could mean a four hour visit to the hospital. For buses not to run at all means many are cut off.

Thanks to the work of a group of Devizes passengers, a consultant looked at the   bus services between Devizes and Pewsey and came up with a plan which combines direct routing to the railway station with deviations to villages.  So far the re-organisation is working and is a welcome improvement. There may be a case in other areas for re-organisation so the best use is made of buses and they do not run with very few passengers.

Wiltshire is seeking to save £2.5 million on bus subsidies.  This would mean cutting evening, weekend and bank holiday services and reducing the hourly service on some routes to two hourly.  Other Counties are also considering cuts.  Meanwhile, as Devizes Passengers and the Campaign for Better Transport point out, there is a Bus Services Bill going through Parliament with measures to improve networks and franchise new ones. One problem is that Buses are not recognised as national infrastructure so do not qualify for Government money.  Perhaps there is an opportunity for this to be rectified?

At the same time as the proposed cuts, there are road schemes being agreed with large amounts of funding coming through the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Economic Partnership from the Department for Transport and from the EU.  In the Gloucestershire the schemes are mainly to help public transport and in Swindon the Rapid Transit System for the Eastern Villages is included.  However, in Wiltshire there are road schemes that involve match funding.  It is argued that they are needed to unlock more housing.  Will that bring more congestion?

Road maintenance comes from a different pot.  The Government has put £6 billion towards that and £300 million for cycling.

Driverless electric cars may come in the next few years.  They could help to cut down on pollution which is a major problem with road traffic.  Will they add to the number of cars on the roads, leading to the construction of more roads and car parks or will they lead to less car ownership and more car sharing? 

Drivers who use the M4 Junction 16 or the A350 will be only too well aware of congestion and may naturally wish to see road improvements.  However, releasing one bottle-neck can often create another so improvements may be short-lived. With many millions of £s being spent on road improvements (currently £11.92 proposed on M4 Junction 16 and £7.1 million projected for the A350 at Chippenham), and buses not classed as infrastructure and indeed proposed to be cut, are we heading for the best solution in the long term?   Should the re-opening of rail stations, Royal Wootton Bassett, Corsham and Wilton be brought forward?  We need to speak up for the needs of all travellers and the need for transport that is sustainable.


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