Five steps to campaigning against withdrawn bus routes

Service Discontinued by Dennis Tsang

As austerity measures start to take effect, many bus routes across the country are being reduced, or withdrawn altogether.

One bus journey may feel just the same as another to you, the passenger – but there is a crucial distinction at play. The vehicles are the same, the fares and even the drivers are the same – but often, services that would not make a profit for the operator are subsidised by the council.

These include early morning and late night runs, and routes taking in remote or rural locations, where passenger numbers don’t offset the cost of the journey. It is these services that are most at risk as the government¬† puts pressure on local councils to spend less.

Slashing these routes might help the councils balance their budgets, but of course, removing a bus service can have a real impact on people’s daily lives. Those who have made the decision to live in rural areas, based on previously good public transport links, may find they can no longer get to work or their kids to school; disabled, elderly or otherwise vulnerable people may find that all contact with the extended community has been cut off.

So what can you do?

1.  Start a FixMyTransport campaign

Start by locating the bus route in question, and contacting the operator: this is a good first move, because it means you get the facts laid out for you in their response – and even better, because you’re doing it through FixMyTransport, the response is online and available for everyone else to read, too.

Note that FixMyTransport’s database contains many discontinued routes, so you can still mount a campaign even if your route no longer exists.

2. Ask an expert

There’s a good chance that the reply will say “It’s a budgetary decision from the council, who subsidise this route”. If that happens, click the “ask an expert” button on your FixMyTransport page, and ask for the council’s email address to be added to your campaign. We’ll do that sharpish, and then you can then bring them into the conversation.

3. Gather support

One message won’t do much on its own, so look at our blog post on how to gather support and take your issue further. This sort of problem is particularly suitable for local press coverage and for getting your local councillors involved – we explain how to do both in that post.

4. Get help

The Campaign for Better Transport is a national pressure group which fights for improved public transport. They’ve been running a co-ordinated ‘Save Our Buses’ campaign across the country ever since the cuts started to take effect.

On their site, you’ll find an informative campaigners’ guide [PDF], and advice about when cutting a bus service is actually against the law.

You can also add your discontinued bus route to their crowd-sourced map. Because the CBT is running a nationwide campaign, they can get real traction behind the political issues driving the slashes in bus provision. They also have links to local groups, and can give advice too.

5. Network!

There’s strength in numbers – and if you’d like people to join your campaign, consider joining other ones yourself. People up and down the country are affected by the same issues, and if you share tips and offer support,¬† you can ensure that you’re all more likely to succeed.

Here are just a few of the recent FixMyTransport campaigns about discontinued or at-risk routes:

Here are a couple of one-off reports, too; you can’t join these, although you can leave a comment by clicking ‘update’. Your comment will go to the original reporter, and will appear on the web page:

Good luck with your campaign. We’d love to hear your success stories (and we’ll also listen if you have no success).

Image by Dennis Tsang (CC)