FUNDING cuts to bus routes will take hold on Sunday throughout Herefordshire – with a real impact expected for the county’s ageing population.
Starting this week, Sunday services will be slashed, with many routes withdrawn entirely, following Herefordshire Council’s decision not to renew its contract with commercial bus firm First.
The cuts will hit routes in all areas of the county.
Inner-city services have fared worse still, with 14 Hereford routes seeing severe cutbacks or, in some cases, total withdrawals.
Those lines set for the chop include the 72, 72A and 72B, which run from the city centre to Moor Farm and Bobblestock, and will no longer run in the evenings.
Evening journeys on the 75, 75A and 75B Hampton Park/city centre/Belmont route have also been scrapped, as have their Sunday service.
Saturday journeys have been withdrawn for the 78, 78A and 78B Railway station/Hinton/Rotherwas route, with most off-peak journeys also being cut.
Most evening journeys have also been withdrawn for the 74, 74A and 74B city centre to Newton Farm routes.
The reason given on First’s website for each change was down to "the expiry of a Herefordshire Council contract”.
Herefordshire buses have been listed among those with the lowest usage rates of any local authority over the last five years.
In 2012/13 the county registered less than 17 bus journeys per person, its worst figure in more than eight years and fifth-worst in the UK according to the Department for Transport.
Led by its Choose How You Move team, the council has attempted to get people out of cars and into using more sustainable transport.
However faced with having to save £33m by 2017, a statement on the authority's website said the priority was to retain support for the core network and rural lifeline services – while reducing the county’s bus service.
This has meant that daytime journeys were prioritised, at the expense of evening and weekend buses, with the council continuing to subsidise many morning and afternoon runs.