Southern Vectis have today (Monday) announced that a total of 4 rural bus routes are to be withdrawn entirely and two others will see changes in what has been described as the largest funding cuts to supported bus services seen on the Isle of Wight to date.
Southern Vectis has been working in partnership with Isle of Wight Council to preserve local bus services – despite funding restrictions prompted by the current financial climate.
It has been confirmed that Route 33 from Ryde to Newport via Haylands; Route 34 from Wootton to Folly Lane; Route 34a from Wootton to Havenstreet and Route 35 from Newbridge to Newport via Brighstone/Newtown will all be scrapped from September alongside Dial-a-Bus services.
In addition to the above, Route 23 from Newport to Shanklin via Knighton and Alverstone will see significant changes, with the exact details to be announced. Whilst funding for Route 39 has come to an end, alternative funding streams are being sought to ensure this route continues.
There will also be changes to journeys in the early mornings and late evenings, predominantly on weekends, across many routes – although the changes will affect less than 3% of the total number of customer journeys made.
Island Echo understands the Route 6 and Route 8 will change to a 2-hourly service in the evenings with Route 6 journeys cut from 64 to just 34.
As well as scrapping routes, a change in discounts for some young people are being implemented. Funding for 16-18 year olds subsidised travel to and from education is being withdrawn by the Isle of Wight Council – but Southern Vectis will continue to offer a 25% discount for this group of passengers, including students post 18 years old. Currently children aged 5-18 and post-18 with a NUS card receive a 50% discount, meaning fares will become 25% more expensive from the new school year. A discount of 50% for those under 16 remains unchanged.
Andrew Wickham, managing director of Southern Vectis said:
“These are difficult times, both for us as bus operators and for the local authorities in which we serve.
“The funding cuts for supported services are the largest we have experienced here. However, we have been working closely with Isle of Wight Council and I am pleased to announce that 89 percent of our journeys will be completely unaffected.
“We have looked carefully at usage across all routes to ensure we can maintain a good level of service wherever possible.
“Our aim, throughout this exercise, has been to minimise the impact on our customers and continue to operate one of the UK’s most comprehensive rural bus networks. I’m pleased that we have been able to replace many publicly funded journeys with commercial ones.”
“Through working with the Community Bus Partnership we have managed to retain four routes.
“The 22, 24 and 32 buses will continue. And a revised route 23 will continue to run from Newchurch to Sandown now up to four days per week. It means those travelling by bus along this route will keep their service.
“Less than three percent of travellers will be affected by the revisions – and in many cases they will still be able to make their journey, it’s just the timings that may change.”
Despite the funding cut backs and withdrawal of lesser used journeys, Southern Vectis will continue to operate what is widely regarded as one of the UK’s most comprehensive rural bus networks. With buses operating early until late – seven days per week, 365 days per year – connecting the major towns on the island.
Isle of Wight Council executive member for economy and tourism, Councillor Shirley Smart, said:
“We have been in close discussions with Southern Vectis and other community bus operators in relation to these difficult decisions.
“We greatly appreciate their efforts to minimise the effects of these changes, but sadly there are some routes which just do not have enough passengers to remain financially viable under the present arrangements. These changes reflect the extreme financial pressures the Isle of Wight Council is currently experiencing, which have led to some tough decisions for the authority in how it deploys its resources over the coming years. In general terms this means the council having to prioritise its spending on those services which it must provide by law over those it would like to provide for the community.
“We will of course continue to extensively consult with the public over our spending arrangements, as we have in recent years, and will also continue to offer advice and support to parish and town councils and voluntary groups which may be able to assist with alternative provision, especially where services have been withdrawn.”