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THE number of miles travelled by Wiltshire buses has dropped since 2013, resulting in the loss of 1.1million miles of travel, the equivalent of 44.5 trips around the equator.
Statistics published by the BBC last month show that in 2013/14 there were 7.32 million miles travelled on Wiltshire buses, including 3.99 million miles on bus routes subsidised by Wiltshire Council.
In 2016/17, the total amount of miles dropped to 6.21 million – a reduction of 15 per cent.
The figures show that in the four years, whilst the number of miles covered by commercial routes rose by 7 per cent, the number of miles covered by routes subsidised by Wilshire Council dropped by 33.9 per cent.
Although the number of miles available to travel around the county has dropped, the number of passengers using buses has remained steady with around 10 million journeys being made every year since 2013/14.
Melksham local, Graham Ellis who is a campaigner for better public transport in the county, says that while Wiltshire Council has done their best with the budget they have, the loss of commuter and evening services has impacted the town.
Graham told Melksham News, “Bus usage has thinned out in Wiltshire. It’s not as bad as other counties, but we have been impacted by the loss of commuter and evening services.
“In the evening Melksham is only accessible by bus via the service from Bath as over the years we have lost evening services from Chippenham and Trowbridge. For example the last bus from Chippenham to Melksham was at 10.15pm, now the last bus is at 5.30pm. This is a very significant issue. There is now also no evening service from Lacock, meaning that visitors have to rely on designated drivers and taxis, which is very strange for a tourist attraction like Lacock.
“Wiltshire Council are doing their best to reduce the impact of these bus losses, but they can only work within the budget that they have.
“Taking into account inflation and the rising cost of bus services, the council is getting less for their money. There has been a squeeze.”
In 2016, Wiltshire Council agreed to cut approximately 10% from its £5.1million public bus subsidies for the 2017/18 financial year – the impact of this on bus miles travelled in the county is yet to be published.
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “Bus services are important in a rural county, which is why we still subsidise around 50% of the journeys in Wiltshire which costs around £4.5million – roughly the same as it was in 2013/14.
“These figures don’t reflect the situation in Wiltshire, and the same number of people are using the buses in our county now as they were four years ago. We are bucking the national trend by supporting buses as much as we do, and we recently increased parking charges helping to ensure we continue to do so.”