LOCAL councillor Belinda Bawden has taken concerns over the withdrawal of the Stagecoach bus service between Lyme Regis and Seaton to Dorset Council.
Stagecoach recently announced it would withdraw its 9A service between Lyme Regis and Seaton from July 31, as “insufficient passenger demand for this section of the route to continue on a commercial basis”.
The withdrawal sparked widespread concern among residents and visitors who regularly use the route, especially those who use it to access work.
Seaton-based company Axe Valley Mini Travel then announced it would be launching a new service between the two towns from August 1. This will be subsidised by Devon County Council, but will not run as regularly as the 9A.
Green councillor Belinda Bawden, who was elected to represent Lyme Regis and Charmouth at Dorset Council earlier this year, has now taken the town’s concerns to County Hall.
In a question to Conservative councillor Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said: “The recent sudden announcement by Stagecoach that they would be terminating their bus service from Exeter to Lyme Regis at Seaton from July 31 has left many people in Seaton, Lyme Regis and the villages in between very anxious indeed.
“Many rely on the service to get to work, to attend medical, dental or hospital appointments, to go shopping, or for leisure travel. “Devon County Council has agreed to subsidise the new service but the majority of passengers are, we are told, from Lyme Regis.
“I hope that Dorset Council will also agree to provide support to retain an adequate bus service between Lyme Regis, Seaton and Exeter.”
Cllr Bawden went on to ask for the criteria and process by which decisions are made by Dorset Council over which bus services could be subsidised to be explained, particularly when the route crosses county boundaries, adding: “What assessment could be done on the impact on community resilience, mental health, the cost of living crisis and the climate and ecological emergency strategy and action plan if people lose their jobs or have to increase the use of private cars when buses they rely on are withdrawn?”
Cllr Bryan said a “number of factors” were taken into consideration when deciding whether a bus route receives subsidy, and each route was considered on a case by case basis.
The main priorities for consideration are as follows:
- Does the route provide home to school transport for Dorset students?
- Does the corridor form part of Dorset’s Interurban Network?
- Are there other public or community transport alternatives for residents along the route?
The number of passengers that use the service is also taken into consideration when assessing the value for money. Dorset Council does not currently subsidise Saturday, Sunday or evening services.
In 2016, Dorset Council withdrew support for all market day services (those that ran from villages to market towns on market days only).
Cllr Bryan added: “With regards to the impact on the community, Dorset Travel has a remit and limited resources to help people get from A to B.
“The wider remit of mental health, cost of living crisis and climate and ecological emergency rests with other services within the council, that may have resources to assist with public transport if it meets their criteria.”
Cllr Bryan said he was currently waiting for feedback on why Dorset’s Council’s recent bid to the Department for Transport’s Bus Service Improvement Plan had failed, adding: “We met with Baroness Vere a few weeks ago and asked for an explanation, sadly nothing received so far. “To enable us to become carbon zero by 2050 we need to provide the Dorset residents with a public transport system that gives them an alternative to use of their car.”