Essex County Council have decided to withdraw the subsidy for the 20 and 167 bus routes which they currently pay to Transport for London. This is to take effect from April 2016.
This was without consultation or prior warning to residents of affected areas Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Debden, Loughton, or even of their County Council Representatives.
Please read this article in the Epping Forest Guardian from 27th November click here
In February 2016, TfL announced that despite this, they will maintain the existing services for 2016, but will review all cross-border services in 2017.
In July 2016 TfL announced a public consultation on shortening the 167 Bus Route, no longer running betwen Loughton Station and Debden. Read more here. and follow the links to register your views (before 22nd July).
As a Residents' Society, we will be monitoring this closely, and liaising with other bodies such as the Loughton Residents Association in opposing any reduction in services.
We have been informed of correspondence from Cllr Roger Hirst of ECC in response to queries from one of our members, which attempts to clarify the reasons for the decision.
From: "Cllr Roger Hirst, Member CC"
Date: 18 November 2015
Subject: The future of bus Service 20 and 167 in Loughton
Thank you for your enquiry regarding the future of bus services 20 and 167 in Loughton. These services are currently contracted for by Transport for London, with Essex County Council making a financial contribution to TfL for the part run in Essex. The contribution is currently some £680k a year. This represents around one twelfth of the County Council's overall net expenditure on local bus services and it is natural that, given the stringent financial situation it faces, the Council would want to look very closely at that level of funding.
To clear up any potential misunderstanding, the bus review does not propose removing these services. In fact, under the priority policy set out in the proposals, the services themselves would have one of the higher priorities for support. What is something of a long standing anomaly is the level of the payment being made to TfL.
In most other towns of comparable size in Essex, at least the main peak and daytime elements of services like the 20 and 167 would be provided commercially, with no charge falling on the County Council, although we might well fund evening or Sunday services, depending on commercial viability at these times. We are therefore holding discussions with TfL about the level of contribution (if any) that Essex should make. While at this point there is no indication from TfL that they intend to cancel the services, if they did decide to do so, they would have to hold a public consultation and give ECC notice of their intent. In that case, we would talk to bus operators about what they might be prepared to take on commercially and would then go out to tender for any part of the service where we thought there was a significant need that was not met. We would expect these elements to cost us considerably less than the current payment to TfL.
We recognise how important these services are for residents, however, we cannot allow that to prevent us from making sure they are provided on a cost-effective basis.
Cllr Roger Hirst
Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning & Environment
From: "Cllr Roger Hirst, Member CC"
Date: 30 November 2015
Thank you for your E mail of 18th November regarding the above bus services.
Any change in the way that buses are funded can mean potential changes to that service. This will include timings, frequency, route, fares, vehicle type, age and other factors. That is true in this case. However, at present TfL have not suggested they have any plans to make changes to these particular services. If they did so, we would of course look to work closely with them.
I can reassure you that should any changes be proposed to either the 20 or 167 there would be a full consultation, engaging with passengers, communities, councillors and other stakeholders. We fully recognise the importance and high level of use of these routes.
Cllr Roger Hirst
Her comments on Cllr Hirst's email are highlighted below in Red.
Any change in the way that buses are funded can mean potential changes to that service. yes there will be cuts to the service. This will include timings, frequency, route, fares, vehicle type, age and other factors . That is true in this case. there will definetely be cuts in the service. However, at present TfL have not suggested they have any plans to make changes to these particular services. TFL has only just been notified of the cut in the grant so have not has yet had time to react If they did so, we would of course look to work closely with them we will wring our hands and blame them.
I can reassure you that should any changes be proposed to either the 20 or 167 there would be a full consultation, engaging with passengers, communities, councillors and other stakeholders. TFL will have to do the consultation as they have to, unlike us but like us will ignore your views as they are not funded to provide services in Essex We fully recognise the importance and high level of use of these routes. .we may do but we do not care and by the time it all happens we hope to blame TFL