CUTS in government funding and increases in fuel duty are ‘almost certainly’ going to push up fare prices for local bus passengers in the next month.
Peter Shipp, chairman of bus operator EYMS Group, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a last ditch attempt to head off the damaging 58% increase in fuel tax which bus operators face in April.
He says that the increase, along with a 20% cut in the Bus Service Operator Grant (BSOG) from the government, will mean a loss of £600,000 a year in grant for EYMS.
This comes on top of increased prices for fuel itself, and a £700,000 a year reduction in the payment EYMS receives from local authorities for operating the Concessionary Travel Scheme which gives free bus travel for pensioners and the disabled.
Mr Shipp has asked the Chancellor to use some of the Government’s recently reported January tax windfall to restore all or at least some of the planned BSOG cut to head off more reductions in bus services and steep rises in bus fares which he says are inevitable when this tax increase takes place.
He said: “We are hoping against hope that something will happen, I feel that I can’t just sit here and do nothing because we have built up this business and all these routes over many years.
“I have been here since 1997 and from a personal point of view I don’t want to have to see us pulling back services or increasing fares, but we can’t see any other option.”
The cost of fuel for EYMS has risen from about £1.2million in 1999 to almost £5million this year and Mr Shipp believes this is grossly unfair on bus passengers who inevitably bear the full brunt of these cost increases.
EYMS runs dozens of buses into Hull and York, serving Pocklington, Market Weighton and the surrounding villages and Mr Shipp says that buses have suffered far higher fuel tax increases than any other forms of transport in the last few years.
He said: “Airlines pay no fuel duty, trains pay very little.
“Car and truck drivers have had to suffer the big increases in fuel duty, but not the massive cut in the grant which bus operators have received which has been there for many years to help maintain bus services and keep fare rises as low as possible.
“Using 1999 as a base, fuel tax included in the pump price for private cars and trucks has increased by about 60%. For buses the figures is an astonishing 175%.”
The Campaign for Better Transport recently reported that over 1,100 bus routes have been lost nationally already, although Mr Shipp said that there are currently no plans to scrap any EYMS routes.
He said: “The Government keeps telling us that it wants to see more people on buses, that buses are vital for the economy, jobs, climate change and social inclusion, but these changes, together with the equally damaging financial effects of the Concessionary Travel Scheme are having exactly the opposite result,” he said, adding: “We are using every means at our disposal to save fuel through driver training and telematics but the savings come nowhere near offsetting these huge increases.”