More updates on the news from Torbay where Local Link are ending their services in April:
THE future of several bus routes in Torquay is under threat after a leading councillor said the operator was cutting back on services.
Cllr Mark King, executive lead for transport, says the council has been told that Local Link will terminate a number of its routes from April.
The routes affected are 25, 64, 65, 108/109, 62, 61/60, 67, 67A, 67B.
Cllr King said: "It is with regret that I can confirm that the bus operator Local Link is withdrawing from the fare stage element of their business and that we are in receipt of their de-registration forms."
Local Link managing director Derek French said: "It is with great regret that the Local Link have decided to cancel from 1st April 2017 all fare stage services as follows 25, 108/109,60/61,62,64,65,67,67A,67B, Sainsbury's Torquay SB5-SB6 and Sainsbury's Paignton SB1-SB4.
"It has become increasingly difficult to operate fare stage routes in today's market place with ever increasing overheads and reduced income. An example of this being a substantial reduction in concessionary fare re-imbursement in April 2016.
"We shall continue to trade in other aspects of the transport industry and would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers for their loyal support over the past 13years."
Mr King said the council will look to offer these routes to other operators in the coming weeks though the services will run until April.
He added: "The council continues to reimburse operators for concessionary fares, against national criteria, and this will continue for all eligible routes."
However Cllr King said unless a new operator came forward in the next week or ten days it is unlikely the services could be continued after April.
When the company moved to stop the number 60/61 service last May and the council stepped in with an additional £60,000 support, an emergency application was made to the Department of Transport to keep it running. Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Ian Doggett said the company had officially given notice to the Department for Transport to cancel all their services from various dates in April and May 2017.
The decision to end the services follows Torbay Council imposing lower rates of payment for concessionary bus fares across Torbay. The Paignton councillors said: "These services often reach places in the Bay that others do not! "If these services are not replaced, many residents will be left isolated.
"This is a disaster for local transport provision, and would see , for example, the end of services 60/61, which last year was threatened with withdrawal, and got a reprieve. The Service 67 is another one that would finish. This runs between Brixham and Torbay Hospital and the Willows, via Paignton and Marldon,and offers a quick direct service.
"I will be in contact with the mayor Gordon Oliver and the executive lead for transport, Mark King , over the situation to see if they can expedite a solution."
The council budget for concessionary fares for 20176/17 is £4.36 million.
This Press Release has appeared on the Local Link website www.localbustorbay.com today (14th February):
“Let’s be clear – the local bus services operated by Chelston Leisure Services (t/a Local Link) are, primarily, operated commercially. They are NOT local authority tendered services. Local Link are a small operator and as such have lower overheads than larger bus operators and until now have been able to continue to run services that others would not have wished to operate commercially. Pressures on costs have made this more and more difficult in recent years.
One element of the shortfall in costs has been the reimbursement for English National Concessionary pass holders, because of the high retired population in Torbay many of the customers carried by the company hold these passes and the company has to be reimbursed for carrying them.
The level of reimbursement is based on a complex statutory formula and like many smaller operators the company is no longer satisfied that this formula is fit for purpose.
This reduced reimbursement is just one element of the short fall that has hit operators in recent years.
It has become more and more difficult to recruit and retain suitable staff. Vehicle operating costs have increased in recent years with the need to invest in accessible vehicles and the cost of providing additional staff training all have to be borne by the operator. Insurance costs have also risen markedly. The only way to recover these costs is to increase fares considerably for those who still pay cash and the company do not believe that would be appropriate.
The potential implications for commercial bus operators of impending legislation are also a major concern. Local Link have considered all the factors and a decision has been made to pull out of the local bus service market. The company has given the statutory 56 days notice to terminate these services and this will give other operators an opportunity to come forward and indicate whether they wish to run any of these services or incorporate them into their existing networks. It will then be for the local authority to decide whether they wish to support any gaps in the network that continue to exist once operators have declared what if anything they wish to run commercially.”
On a more personal note, this is a very sad time for the operators and staff of the Local Link and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our passengers for their support and continued loyalty over the past 13 years.
Derek and Jeanette French"
Photo above (cc)Julian Walker.