Friday, 27 February 2015

Don't cut us off letter to the press

The “Don't Cut Us Off!” campaign to improve our bus services is astonished that Somerset County Council cannot find a senior elected representative to attend the important 5th March public meeting in Shepton Mallet to discuss the future bus timetable that meets the needs of Somerset residents and visitors.
We now call upon the County Council to supply a Corporate Manager for Transport to attend the 5th March meeting, as the political representatives deem it not important enough to make time to hear the views of the travelling public and the bus companies. 
Most of our county’s towns and villages do not have bus services that meet need. But it is impossible to improve public transport if those who make decisions, like the leader and transport portfolio holder, essentially sit with their fingers in their ears unwilling to listen to users.  We do however note that the transport portfolio holder has offered to meet with Shepton Mallet Town Council, but will not engage with the people of Somerset who actually need and use the buses.
The Don't Cut Us Off! campaign wants to improve the existing timetable and the routes that buses take.  We want up-to-date data on bus usage to be collected and analyzed to identify the real needs of users (and potential users). This can then be used to target bus subsidies more effectively to improve services. We want to set up a countywide forum of users, bus operators and the County Council. These stakeholders would then be well placed to deliver improvements in service that would provide buses routes and integrated timetables that are closely matched to the lives of users.  If optimized timetables make routes more popular then this will also increase revenue to bus operators. Ultimately this could even reduce the need for public subsidies.
Not unreasonably, we expect better from our political leaders than sitting in a corner saying they don't want to listen to the ordinary people of Somerset.  We expect those who control the public purse to use the limited money available to best advantage. This campaign has found that the public is eager to help the County Council to achieve this.
So come on, councillors!  It’s time to rise to the occasion on the 5th of March and engage with younger, older, disabled, less-well-off, carbon footprint-aware, occasional, regular and future bus users.
Sarah Bolton
Tracey Harding
Chris Inchley
Garfield Kennedy
Derek Tanswell
Sharon Snook
for the “Don’t Cut Us Off!” Campaign

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