Wiltshire Council's bus consultation: a personal view of what could happen to Marlborough's routes
Last week I completed Wiltshire Council's bus survey, just launched and running until 4 April. It states that it is not route specific, but only refers to currently subsidised bus routes in general.
However, if respondents do not look at the list of these subsidised routes they may find it difficult to answer under each category of proposed cost saving options, especially as to whether they are directly affected or not.
People may also mistakenly believe they simply won’t be affected.
It took me a while to find the list of subsidised routes for Marlborough and the surrounding area, although it is available if you follow the link and it is printed at the back of the paper copy of the survey - copies are available in Marlborough Library, but not easily spotted beside the window!
When I did find the list, what a shock!
It appears to me that virtually all regular bus services to and from Marlborough, and probably most of the irregular bus services are included in one category of proposed cut or another - options 1-5. And in any case, the final option (No. 6) being looked at is to withdraw all funding from the subsidised services.
X5, 217 (mornings unaffected), 19, 20 (links to Bedwyn for rail users), 21,22,42, 46,48 X76 and 80 and the 70A and 72A evening service are all listed. They all face being cut completely or reduced to an irregular skeleton service - which, of course, further deters users. Even the X5 and 21 school buses might be affected, as the assurance given in the survey that school buses are exempt from the changes refers to town school bus services in rural towns other than Marlborough.
There is no direct bus link currently between Marlborough and Devizes. On the journey planner mid- morning it gives a time of three minutes shy of two hours for the bus journey from Marlborough to Devizes - with a change in Avebury (and an hour’s wait.) The planner's return journey goes through Swindon and takes 1hour 45mins. The journey takes 25 minutes by car - so much for hoping to cut car usage!
Marlborough appears not to be a ‘strategic town’ - although the X5 which links Salisbury, Pewsey Marlborough and Swindon is proposed in the category of routes that face being reduced to a two hourly service. This may make Marlborough more vulnerable to cuts.
Marlborough job seekers have to go to Devizes or Swindon, as do those attending FE college, and for most hospital appointments. Others commute to work. There is no train station in either Marlborough or Devizes, and both are hoping to further develop their tourist potential, especially with the growing interest in Avebury and Stonehenge. Perhaps the consultation should look at adapting or adding new routes not just at making cuts.
Virtually everyone in Marlborough is car dependent - even if they don’t own one. One suggestion under Option 6 (the total subsidy cut option) is that Wiltshire Council should look at reconfiguring some of its services so people don’t have to travel to access them. But as Wiltshire has spent all its money for community campuses with none left over for Marlborough, this seems to be a red herring. Another suggestion is to increase community services like Link, but these are run by volunteers, using their own cars, with a limited remit.
How everyone now rings their hands at the 1960s Beeching rail cuts, especially those in Wiltshire. The loss of vital rail infrastructure has left an expensive and environmentally damaging legacy. For the sake of those who can’t afford or who are not able to drive, and those concerned about the effect of car dependence on the environment, please respond to this survey.
I await the outcome with trepidation.
Sue Knowles is Chair of Marlborough Liberal Democrats and lives in Marlborough
FOOTNOTE: If you follow the link above to the Wiltshire Council website and go down towards the foot of the page you can click on "Public Transport Review - Public Consultation Document" and then go to page 49 you will see what the cost of bus subsidies are for the Marlborough routes - even what the subsidy is per passenger journey.