The prospect of being stranded:(

A few weeks ago, we wrote this post about the threats to bus services in and around Bristol and Bath: For bus users, it can feel like every day is a strike day FFS! 16.6.22. While there are specific issues in that region that impact bus services, it would be a mistake to assume that bus users aren’t being clobbered elsewhere in the country. Subsidised, mainly rural services in Thurrock are also threatened with the axe: Borough villages may lose bus services in cost-saving proposal by council 2.7.22.

The services in question are subsidised by Thurrock Council. As a result of the lockdowns in 2020/2021, passenger numbers fell and at this point in time, have not recovered to 2019 levels. That now makes them an easy target for the bean counters at a cash strapped council to eventually cut, albeit after a period of ‘consultation’ with residents in the communities who would be impacted by the withdrawal of these services. Given what’s at stake for the bean counters, you can’t blame people for thinking that the ‘consultation’ will be designed to deliver the answers they want. Namely an ‘endorsement’ for cutting or withdrawing services.

It does seem that in an age of almost ubiquitous car ownership, non-driving bus users are seen as an easy target. After all, it’s their fault for living in a remote village. That disregards that fact that a fair number of these bus users from the remote villages will be teenagers too young to drive but who need to get around. At the other end of the spectrum, there will be elderly, long standing residents who for a variety of reasons, are no longer able to drive. They find themselves having to rely on a bus service which they then discover has a very uncertain future. The cynical view is that teenagers don’t vote and that the elderly residents who find themselves stranded in the village they’ve lived in for most of their lives won’t be around much longer.

On the one hand, in the bid to reach ‘carbon neutrality’, we’re all being urged to drive less and switch to other means of transportation. On the other hand, some of those other forms of transport such as rural bus services are facing the axe. You can’t win can you? Thurrock Council may well turn around and suggest residents in villages such as East Tilbury and Bulphan cycle instead. Aside from the fact that elderly residents may not relish the prospect of starting to ride a bike in their 70s and 80s, there’s also the question of how safe are the country lanes in Thurrock for cycling?

With their sudden twists and turns, potholes everywhere and the significant minority of drivers in Thurrock who are basically ‘nutters’, the country lanes are NOT safe. If people are expected to cycle instead of relying on buses, then safe cycling routes would need to be put in. Given that Thurrock Council is seriously strapped for cash, there’s little chance of even a single yard of a safe cycling route ever being put in. So basically, non-drivers are going to end up being stranded through no fault of their own:(

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