THOUSANDS of bus passengers could be left stranded without services in South Yorkshire when Government funding is slashed in less than three months’ time.
Routes to rural areas, early morning and late evening services, and buses which operators claim are poorly-used are all in the firing line.
Bus companies receive an annual payment from the Government called the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, which subsidises fuel costs. It is worth £12 million to South Yorkshire’s transport firms each year.
But the payment is being slashed by 20 per cent - the equivalent of £2.4 million - in April.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive said the reduction would have a ‘big impact’ - and said consultation was underway with operators.
The county’s biggest bus operator, First, said it had already taken steps to prepare for the cut including imposing an average five per cent fare rise.
And a spokeswoman for rival firm Stagecoach said: “We will work hard to minimise the impact on customers.”
Among routes which could face the axe is the number 6 from Fulwood to Darnall, in Sheffield, which has already been reduced from half hourly to hourly and has no late evening journeys.
Nether Green pensioner John Keenan, aged 77, who fought to save the service, said: “The impact of its withdrawal or further downgrading would be really bad for elderly passengers who cannot walk uphill to the nearest high-frequency route, the 120.”
Jacqueline Milner, secretary of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “Whatever is cut is going to have an impact on somebody and it’s very sad things have come to this.
“It is true you sometimes have buses with very few people on them - but those passengers rely on the service.
“I hope any cuts are carefully managed to ensure areas still have some service. I suspect the worst-affected areas will be those served by rural routes such as the 61 and 62 around Dungworth and Stannington.”
Passengers in Sheffield city centre were also concerned at possible reductions in services.
Janet Whyte, a retired carer from Inkersall, near Chesterfield, said: “People in rural areas like ours need buses more than in the city because there’s no alternative transport available.”
Andrew Patterson, 21, a student from Dore, said: “Services should optimise where they go in terms of picking up passengers, reducing the impact of cuts.”
Paul Cormack, a retired Sheffield Hallam University lecturer, of Totley Rise, said: “These kind of cuts show the present Government isn’t serious about green issues or protecting those who cannot afford cars.
“It could save money instead by cutting the number of free passes to pensioners - there are lots of pensioners who could afford to pay.”
The extent of the grant cut was revealed to a meeting of councillors who oversee public transport in the county.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive director of customer experience, David Young, said: “We are working with operators to find the best way to deliver a network that suits people’s needs, and will be introducing new initiatives this year to try to get more people using buses.”
Services away from main roads in Sheffield:
n 1 Sheffield outer circle service
n 6 Littledale - city centre - Fulwood
n 4 Millhouses - Sharrow - city centre - Darnall
n 84 city centre - Ringinglow
n 39 city centre - Meersbrook - Woodseats - Chancet Wood
n 61/62 Hillsborough - Dungworth - Bradfield
n numerous in north Derbyshire, south Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster