Bus service cuts and fare increases in Lincolnshire are 'unavoidable'
Just like many households, the man responsible for running most buses in Lincolnshire must walk a financial tightrope. Dave Skepper, commercial director of Stagecoach East Midlands, tells Paul Whitelam and Ed Grover about the tough choices required...
Bus passengers could see fares across the board rise by an average of five per cent.
Dave Skepper, of Stagecoach East Midlands, says the main driver is a reduced fuel rebate which is pushing the cost of diesel up by 39p per gallon used.
Stagecoach East Midlands uses 3 million gallons of diesel a year and it annual fuel bill is about £13 million.
"Like all bus companies across the UK we have had to take a careful look at our operations to try to alleviate some of the fuel cost increases," said Mr Skepper.
"Basically, there are two possible courses of action.
"Firstly, we can increase bus fares substantially.
"The downside is this impacts directly upon bus users, some of whom are on limited incomes, and it also discourages bus use at a time when we are really working to try to grow patronage.
"The other option is to take a hard look at passenger numbers and operating costs on certain individual bus services to see if there are any cost savings that can be made, especially where patronage is very low and there are opportunities to save mileage and fuel costs.
"Although the fuel tax change will affect all bus services, it particularly hits rural bus services given the high mileages involved and relatively low passenger numbers.
"In reality, the best approach is a sensible combination of both of these measures."
Skellingthorpe parish councillor Janet Chambers, 64, who is retired, said she will have less flexibility with her trips into Lincoln.
"They have double-decker buses running through the day when it's not as busy, so why can't they use smaller buses and keep this service going?
"What's going to be the point of building a bus station in Lindongate if there aren't any bus services?"
Mum-of-four Christine Spittles, 43, of Swift Gardens, St Giles, Lincoln, said: "I don't see why we should pay more, especially when they've cut off nearly all the buses in the evenings to the top of the hill."
"If it wasn't for my partner having a car, I'd be forking out a lot on taxis."