Somerset bus operators warn of fares rise

Bus operators in Somerset have warned that changes to fares and services are essential to remain in business.

Their most recent concern is a 20% cut in fuel subsidy to bus service operators, by the government, which came into effect on Sunday.

Previously operators received a base subsidy of 43.21p per litre. That figure has now dropped to 34.57p.

Tim Gardner, from Webberbus, said the passenger would be the one to suffer if the company could not make a surplus.

'Recoup the cost'

"The amount of fuel that we burn within our buses is quite substantial," he said.

"Although it is only a few pence per litre, multiply that by hundreds of thousands of litres and it adds up to be a fairly substantial number.

"If we do not make a surplus we cannot reinvest into our fleet, develop our networks, and at the end of the day the passenger will suffer - so we have to look at some way to recoup the cost."

Operators said they had been expecting the 20% cut to be fazed in over a four-year period but had been notified recently that it would, in fact, be made in full from 1 April.

On top of this, bus companies are facing subsidy cuts from local councils and what they describe as the "enormous" price of fuel.

"We can deal with one or two hits but we can't deal with all three," said Alan Graham from South West Coaches.

He said he believed that Somerset would not have any rural bus services in 10 years time if things continue this way.

"We've got to try and keep fares down to get people on our vehicles," he said.

"If we had more people on the buses then we would obviously get income that way, but in rural Somerset we don't get that number of people on the buses."

Bus operators in England were told by the government in October 2010 that the Bus Service Operators' Grant (BSOG) - a rebate on fuel duty - would reduce by 20% over three years from April 2012.

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