‘Save our bus service’

‘Save our bus service’

A NAILSEA bus company is appealing for sponsorship so it can continue to offer its vital service to members of the community.

The Government is planning to cut the amount of money bus companies receive to carry free bus pass holders in April and North Somerset Coaches fears this could have a devastating impact on services across the district.

The company, which is based in Southfield Road, is now appealing to local businesses to help out by sponsoring the company or paying for adverts on the vehicles.

Owner Dave Fricker said: “We are obliged to carry free bus pass holders for free and we are paid a set amount per passenger by the Government.

“We have no say in what the repayment is and it’s got no relevance to how much it costs to run the service.

“The Government promised in its spending review to maintain free bus passes but they are changing the way repayments are made.

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“At the moment we get 91p per passenger, which is 60 per cent of the average bus fare (�1.76). We’ve been told this will be cut, but we won’t get less than 30 per cent of the average fare - 55p.

“This isn’t very good when we’ve been getting 91p, It’s going to have a huge impact on bus services in April.”

The company is expecting to be hit hard by the cuts and has written to its passengers to inform them of the changes and ask for suggestions on how to make up the shortfall.

A number of passengers offered to pay for the service, but the company is unable to charge them. North Somerset Coaches has written to supermarkets in the area to ask for sponsorship and is also asking local businesses to advertise on their vehicles.

Mr Fricker added: “We are going to do everything we can to keep it going and be imaginative to try to make up the shortfall.

“It’s taken three years of hard work to build up the service and we’re not going to abandon it. We are breaking even now and doing better than we’ve ever done but if we are suddenly faced with that much of a drop it’s going to have a devastating impact on us.

“It’s a vital service and a life line for the community. We can’t and we won’t take it from them.

“We need to really drum up support and get as many passengers using the buses as we can. We need to make people aware of the issues and to ask people to do anything they can to help.

“It will make a much bigger difference if passengers start banging on supermarket doors asking them to support us, than if we write to them.”

Around 200 passengers use the service each day, including pupils travelling to Backwell School and commuters to and from the train station.

Anyone keen to sponsor the bus or advertise on the vehicles can call North Somerset Coaches on 01275 859123.