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£470,000 bill for taxpayers but transport project fails to launch

February 11, 2013 12:58 PM

A Conservative-run transport project billed as "innovative", which was launched after all bus subsidies across the county were cut to save money, has failed to get off the ground.

The Cambridgeshire County Council-run scheme has cost taxpayers £470,000 so far but, two years on, no new transport services have been established. Only one new service is out to tender and the whole project is behind schedule, just 18 months before it is set for completion.

Cambridgeshire Future Transport was tasked with finding "new transport solutions" in light of the draconian cost-saving bus subsidy cuts and given £1.5 million of hard-fought government transport subsidy grant to fund them.

But when bus company, Stagecoach pulled the plug early on some of its services subsidised by the county council due to uncertainty over the new transport project, the council was forced to launch interim services.

This put Cambridgeshire Future Transport behind schedule and set a record high subsidy for one service. The 7A which runs from Heathfield and Hinxton to Sawston costs £16.70 per passenger journey.

At the same time, an initial project of Cambridgeshire Future Transport in Duxford was discovered to have produced just one passenger and cost the taxpayer a staggering £160,000.

"This situation has been a catastrophic disaster from the beginning," said Susan van de Ven, Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson. "Money that was supposed to provide good, subsidised bus services for the people of Cambridgeshire is being frittered away on a half-baked scheme which is not working.

"If this is an indication of things to come, I fear that Cambridgeshire Future Transport services will be unsustainable and that precious remaining passenger transport subsidy will be lost in another round of cuts."

"Many of our long-standing subsidised bus services set to lose council support boast healthy passenger numbers and low per passenger subsidy. They allow people to get to work, take up education and services and provide a lifeline for isolated people.

"A failure to meet these essential transport needs will cost everyone, not least the council itself.

"A new level bureaucracy has been created to run what is essentially a phantom project. Just because something can be called 'innovative and local' doesn't mean it's actually working."