Hope for 'lifeline' Lancing and Sompting bus service as funding options explored
A ‘lifeline’ bus service which was due to be cut in April could yet be saved as funding options to keep it running are explored.
The number 16 bus is one of several subsidised routes due to be affected as West Sussex County Council seeks to make savings of £300,000.
The council announced that, from mid-April, the bus would no longer serve the Lancing and Sompting section of the route – prompting almost 1,500 people to sign a petition, started by councillor Ann Bridges, calling for the decision to be reversed.
SEE MORE: Petition to save ‘lifeline’ bus service in Lancing and Sompting gathers supportChris Chatfield, managing director of Compass Travel in Sussex, confirmed the company was currently in discussions with Lancing Parish Council and Sompting Parish Council to explore possible ways to fund the route going forward.
He described it as a ‘well-used’ service and a ‘lifeline’ for many people but said: “Unfortunately without financial support it does run at a loss so we cannot continue to run it without on-going funding.
“The only realistic option is for the local community to support the service in some way.
"We do have examples elsewhere where our bus services have been funded by parish councils to keep them going.”
While the discussions are ongoing, Mr Chatfield said Compass had decided to keep running the service between Lancing and Lyons Farms for the next few months with a reduced, off-peak only service.
He said: "In the short–term we will be covering the cost of this off-peak service ourselves but if this service is to continue long-term then additional funding needs to be forthcoming.
"If suitable funding is not identified over the next few months then sadly we will have no option but to withdraw the 16 bus from Sompting and Lancing completely from early September."
Councillors on Lancing Parish Council are due to discuss the issue at a council meeting tonight.
A report issued to councillors ahead of the meeting states that a total of 5,015 passengers used the service in the first eight weeks of 2019.
However, of these users, only 8.6 per cent paid to use the service - with the other passengers being concessions or using passes - rendering it 'not sustainable to run on a commercial basis'.
While some bus pass holders stated they would be prepared to pay a contribution towards the cost of the actual fare so the service could continue, Government rules on free older person’s bus passes prevents this, according to the report.
A spokesman from Sompting Parish Council said: "Sompting Parish Council is extremely concerned with the decision taken by West Sussex County Council and the impact it may have on withdrawing the No 16 bus service for Sompting and Lancing Residents.
"We will be holding discussions to consider alternative arrangements. These discussions have yet to take place."