A TRANSPORT campaigner has accused transport bosses of failing to recognise the importance of buses - and called planned cuts to services a "disgrace."

West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which funds transport schemes across West Yorkshire, is planning to reduce the amount it pays to subsidise bus routes by 20 per cent in the next few years, with £1 million of cuts coming next year alone.

At a meeting of the Combined Authority’s Bradford District Consultation Sub-Committee on Monday, members were told these cuts would likely have an impact on the county’s bus users.

The Combined Authority subsidises bus routes that would not be able to operate on a commercial basis, with their funding particularly important in propping up routes linking rural or isolated areas. Last year it spent £19 million on such subsidies.

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The Authority is due to approve its 2019/20 budget at a meeting on Thursday, when the cuts will be discussed.

On the proposed cuts to bus services, a report going to the Authority says: “A thorough review of the way in which bus services are provided is underway in order to deliver the required 20 per cent reductions over the three year period of the strategy.”

At Monday's meeting Neale Wallace, head of transport operations, said: “The Combined Authority’s budget is formally being approved at a meeting this week. It is the expectations that there will be a reduction of £1 million per annum for supporting bus services. There will be another reduction following that which will basically lead to a loss of around 20 per cent of the budget.

“In the past we have looked at how we can mitigate cuts and we have been relatively successful in doing that without inconveniencing the public. But that may now change as the budget gets tighter.”

Ray Wilkes, coordinator of the West and North Yorkshire Campaign for Better Transport said the cuts show that the Authority has got its priorities wrong.

He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace. We feel that the Combined Authority does have the resources, they just don’t prioritise buses.

“Motorists get most of the money, train users and cyclists get a lot of the money, but busses get nothing.

“Unless we get more busses running you’ll get more congestion. People will start abandoning buses. I think the Authority has the wrong attitude towards buses.

“Buses are the only way of getting air pollution down. They need to keep putting money into the bus network.”

He said if congestion was reduced, more services would be commercially profitable, and then fewer routes would need to be subsidised.

A West Yorkshire Combined Authority spokesperson said: “Since 2011, the Combined Authority has been working with the bus operators to identify greater efficiencies and flexibilities, and has reduced the amount spent supporting bus journeys that would not otherwise run by 25 per cent.

“However, this still means the amount we spend on these journeys which ensure connections for people living in more isolated communities as well as early morning, evening and Sunday journeys, was still over £19 million in 2017/18.

“As was reported to the Combined Authority’s Transport Committee last year, ongoing pressure on Council budgets means the amount available to spend in this area by 2020/21, will have reduced to £15.9 million.

“One of our main transport spending commitments is £46 million on the government’s statutory English National Concessionary Transport Scheme that provides free and reduced cost travel for older, disabled and blind people.

“We know from what people tell us, the cost of travel can be a barrier to taking up opportunities, particularly for young people. This is why the Combined Authority is committed to continuing its £10 million per year investment to provide half-fare travel for young people aged up to 19, enabling them to take up education, training, apprenticeship and employment opportunities.

“The changing face of travel, which sees people using more flexible and on-demand services, means there is the opportunity to work with the bus companies, through the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance, to find more cost effective ways of serving communities. This could include flexible, on-demand services that can be adapted to meet people’s specific travel requirements as and when they need them, instead of set routes and timetables.

“This flexibility could mean different solutions in different areas rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach to help keep to a minimum the impacts of the savings we’re having to make on those people who rely on West Yorkshire’s buses.”