|Carnforth railway station|
Even before an additional £1M of spending on bus services has come into effect Lancashire County Council has announced cuts to funding for bus and train information centres across the county.
As part of a round of spending reductions totalling £7M per annum Lancashire proposes to close the bus station enquiry offices at Preston and Nelson as well as the ticket offices at Clitheroe and Carnforth railway stations. Funding for staff who deal with transport and tourism enquiries at Morecambe Visitor Information Centre is also to be withdrawn in a bid to save £198,000 over the next two years.
A report due to be considered by the Council's cabinet on Thursday 7th December admits that the service provided by the centres is "popular" and that the public would no longer have access to public transport information or, in the case of Clitheroe and Carnforth railway stations, the ability to purchase tickets. The council-owned property at Clitheroe would become "surplus to requirements" whereas the Nelson office would be left vacant and would "still incur costs until disposed of (or) leased" The report admits that disposals may be "difficult to achieve" given the localtions and that the council would therefore still incur maintenance costs for the empty and unused properties.
The Carnforth office provides a rail ticket booking facility for staff travelling on council business and the loss of this service "will have an impact on business support services and possibly greater costs to service budgets".
Lancaster's bus station enquiry office survives only because it is operated by Stagecoach although that means it only provides information on that company's services.
It was only following the election in May this year that the ruling Consrervative party increased the funding for non-commercial bus services by 50% to a new total of £3M per annum, achieved by re-directing funding from the aborted Parish Bus Scheme. It now proposes to save at most £198,000 and possibly much less than that by removing the ability of the travelling public to find out about the new bus services it is paying for as well as those provided at no cost to the council by commercial bus operators.
The Report also admits that "(The) Proposal may make travel by public transport more difficult for older people and for people with disabilities because other sources of information and tickets are less understandable. Older and disabled people are less likely to use digital alternatives to obtain travel information or tickets". Therefore "The proposal may be updated following consultation". The BUG will be looking out for the promised "consultation" and hopes that as many people as possible make their views known to Lancashire.