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Stagecoach axe 18 Cambridgeshire routes

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Cancellation of bus services affecting passengers across Cambridgeshire are proposed by Cambus – the operating subsidiary of Stagecoach.

Cambridge Area Bus Users group said the cutbacks were “devastating”.

Eighteen services are on a list on the Government’s licensing website.

Cambus Ltd operates services in and around Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, and Bedford.

In 2021 it made a pre-tax profit of £2.4m with revenue of £28.8m, but that later figure was down from £53m in 2020.

The company said it had been “adversely impacted by the substantial fall in passenger demand for public transport in response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

And that is their ongoing problem, with post-Covid ridership down around 70 per cent of pre-Covid usage. Bus pass ridership is also down.

Immediate problem is that post-Covid ridership is around 70% of pre-covid (WFH etc) but bus-pass ridership is also down.

Cambus Ltd, in their annual accounts, offered a clue about their future.

With the continuing uncertainty of Covid-19 and the UK’s recovery, it said it remained “difficult to accurately forecast the precise timing and extent of how our profitability will recover”.

It said it could be sometime before usage recovered and Cambus revealed at the start of the year it was “therefore planning for a number of scenarios”.

These, listed below, are the services they feel they can no longer operate.

Registration number Operator name Service number Start point Finish point
PF0000459/241
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 25 (25) Addenbrooke’s Trumpington
PF0000459/133
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 18 (18) Cambridge Longstowe
PF0000459/48
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 12 (12) Cambridge Ely
PF0000459/199
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 9B (39) Ely March
PF0000459/49
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 11 (11) Cambridge Bury St Edmunds
PF0000459/169
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 24 (24) Peterborough Lynch Wood
PF0000459/170
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 23 (23) Peterborough Lynch Wood
PF0000459/242
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 30 (30) Huntingdon Ramsey
PF0000459/243
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 35 (35) March Huntingdon Rail Station
PF0000459/281
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED V1 (V1) St Ives Ramsey
PF0000459/283
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED V3 (V3) St Ives Somersham
PF0000459/280
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 904A (904) St Ives Huntingdon
PF0000459/282
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED V2 (V2) St Ives March
PF0000459/284
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED V4 (V4) St Ives Boxworth
PF0000459/50
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 10 (11) Cambridge Newmarket
PF0000459/278
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 915 (915) Royston Cambridge
PF0000459/160
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 776 (72, 73) Bedford Biggleswade
PF0000459/285
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED V5 (V5) Hinchingbrooke Godmanchester
PF0000459/225
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 22 (22) St Ives Bus Station Marley Road St Ives
PF0000459/287
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 29 (29) City Hospital Hampton
PF0000459/176
Cancellation
CAMBUS LIMITED 65_66 (66) Huntingdon Eaton Socon

Richard Wood, Secretary of Cambridge Area Bus Users, said: “Our group believe reliable bus services, over longer hours, with affordable fares are essential to serve the Cambridge region’s growth, and to tackle the climate crisis.

“These latest cutbacks will be devastating for rural residents – and bring more congestion to Cambridge’s already traffic-choked streets.

“The bus user’s point of view needs to be heard more clearly, which is why Cambridge Area Bus Users are planning a post-Covid relaunch. We are seeking people who can be active in running the group.”

Readers can email the group at contact.cabu@gmail.com, or find out more by visiting their website – cbgbususers.wordpress.com.

Could bus franchising be the answer? Cambridge Bus Users Groups offers this view.

The Bus Services Act 2017 provides Mayoral Combined Authorities – including the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority – with the powers to implement bus franchising in their area – akin to the system operated by Transport for London.

The current situation

Bus services outside London were deregulated in 1986. Since then, there have been two systems of bus provision – one for London and one for the rest of Britain.

In London, Transport for London (accountable to the mayor) specifies what bus services are to be provided. TfL decides the routes, timetables, and fares. The services themselves are operated under contract by private companies* through a competitive tendering process.

[* These companies include Stagecoach and Tower Transit, Whippet’s sister company.]

In the rest of the country, it’s a free market, meaning that anyone (subject to minimum safety and operating standards) can operate bus services. Bus operators are free to run whatever services they like, [decide] the fares they will charge and the vehicles they will use. This results in an uncoordinated network with a confusing array of ticketing options.

Although in theory it is a competitive market, in reality most bus services are now provided by five large companies who rarely compete against each other (Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach). Operators focus on the most profitable journeys, with local transport authorities having to pay operators to run journeys on some routes that are socially necessary.

What does franchising offer?

Under bus franchising, the deregulated bus market is suspended, and bus operators are only able to provide services under contract to the local transport authority. This approach is used extensively across Europe, in London and elsewhere as it offers a range of significant advantages that are impossible under partnership – such as integrated ticketing, network planning, cross subsidy across bus services and other modes and unified marketing.

In short, franchising brings together the strengths of private operators in efficient service delivery but within a co-ordinated and planned public transport network…   [allowing] the sensible co-ordination of bus services within a competitive market that drives operators to deliver better value for the public purse. [Urban Transport Group, Briefing document]

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