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Heatherlands bus service is saved, but other services cut

By Stour & Avon Magazine  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

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RESIDENTS on the Heatherlands estate on the outskirts of Ferndown are celebrating victory in their campaign to save a subsidised bus service. The bus, which takes children to primary schools in Ferndown, was threatened with withdrawal as part of the subsidised bus service review by Dorset County Council.

The council's Cabinet last week approved revised plans following extensive public consultation and negotiation with bus companies found additional savings.

A public outcry follow the announcement that a large number of services to isolated areas as well as the Ferndown schools service would be cut in a bid to save £850,000 from the £2.8 million cost of subsidising them, following the withdrawal of central government funding for non-commercial bus routes.

Initial proposals had been drawn up about the routes most likely to be affected following a survey of passenger numbers, which highlighted that many routes were under used and not providing value for money for the Dorset council taxpayer.

There followed a public consultation which took place in the autumn, and the county council says that the many responses have helped shape the final decisions which will deliver £822,000 of the required savings.

And although the number of routes will still be reduced, no community that currently has a service will be left without one.

In addition, an extra £25,000 will be invested in community transport schemes such as dial-a-ride and neighbourhood cars which can replace services in some areas.

In additional to the retention of the Heatherlands service, costing £24,186 annually, amongst key prioritised routes saved are the Saturday only 302A Blandford to Salisbury via Wimborne, Ferndown, West Moors and Verwood which, with an average loading of 19.8, is close to the 20 threshold deemed the minimum level at which routes can be supported.

Key services on a Saturday Ferndown to Ringwood route are retained by removing early and late Monday to Saturday trips.

Also retained is a Friday only Tarrants to Wimborne service.

But there is no reprieve for other Saturday services including the 88 Wimborne Town service and 89 Wimborne to Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Castlepoint via villages, or other weekday services including the 300 and 326 Cranborne to Wimborne and Wimborne to Kingston Lacy.

And no mention of the Blandford to Poole X8 service or service 83 connecting Blandford and Wimborne.

Councillor Hilary Cox, the council's Cabinet member for environment, said: "We have taken note of the 1,200 responses and listened to all the comments. For example, we have worked with several communities to ensure that they will continue to have a Saturday service, even though this meant in some cases reducing services during the week.

"This review is not something we have undertaken lightly, and we fully understand that some bus services offer a lifeline to residents without transport of their own. Unlike many councils, we are still putting a substantial £2 million into supporting local bus services."

Details on community transport schemes can be found at www.dorsetforyou.com/travel-dorset/bus/community-transport

Nicci Brown

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