Financial support for a rural Saturday-only bus service is to be continued by Uckfield Town Council.
The 262 service runs between Forest Row and Heathfield, potentially bringing people to Uckfield shops and also providing public transport for townspeople to the Ashdown Forest.
Other councils subsidising the route are the parishes of Framfield, Maresfield and Hartfield.
Where are the journeys?
Cllr Chris Macve, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said he was in favour of public transport but said there was no information about where people’s journeys occurred.
There was, he said, no way of knowing how the Uckfield money was being spent and what benefit was coming to the town.
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield North, said he wished to support public transport in any way that he could.
Reduce car use
“We have got to get cars off the road, or limit car traffic.
“We are also very concerned about the environmental issues of Ashdown Forest and this seems to be one of the most environmentally friendly ways of Uckfield residents being able to visit the Ashdown Forest by using a bus service.
“Sometimes you just have to say, OK it may not stack up but we want to support this because we think it is the right thing,” he said.
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield Central, said many of the things the council did were community driven
The bus subsidy was worthwhile because it gave the opportunity for people in isolated rural areas to get into town.
“If we as a community in the town cannot be generous and open to our neighbours like this, what is it going down to,” he said.
Cllr Duncan Bennett, Trust Independent, New Town, said the council should promote the bus service in future.
A grant of £3,900 was agreed.
Timetables (as displayed at Uckfield bus station)
A troubled bus route
This rural cross-East Sussex route has had something of a troubled history in recent years and has suffered service cuts.
Last year, Uckfield Town Council was told that the 231 bus, calling at Etchingham, Burwash, Heathfield, Blackboys, Framfield and Uckfield run by Compass Travel had reduced its timetable on weekdays as a result of passenger numbers decreasing and made a decision to stop the 231 service on Saturdays from February 18, 2017.
The North Wealden Community Transport Partnership (NWCTP) was already providing a Saturday service between the Ashdown Forest and Uckfield, which Maresfield Parish Council and Uckfield Town Council contributed to, to enable local residents and visitors to travel between the forest and Uckfield, and reach connecting bus services towards East
It was agreed to extend the service timetable to travel between Forest Row and Heathfield to continue service provision between the villages and enable the community to reach their local towns.
After some lengthy discussions between the parishes, Uckfield Town Council along with Framfield, Heathfield and Maresfield jointly funded the Saturday bus service in 2017/18 to see its continuation.
However, Heathfield Parish Council decided against supporting the service financially in the year 2018/19, which created some difficulties initially, before Hartfield assisted with contributing to the service.
The service as a whole, costs just under £10,000 to run per annum.
Contributions between the parishes has previously been calculated in accordance with the tax base, which suggested that Uckfield Town Council would need to contribute just over £4,000 in 2018/19.
Uckfield Town Council put aside £3,000 towards the running of the service in 2018/19.
The North Wealden Community Transport Partnership’s feedback on the 262 Saturday service stated:
“It is difficult to make a comparison between the performance of this service in 2018 and in 2017, since the route has changed twice over that period. However, it is encouraging to note that the total number of passenger journeys has increased year-on-year from 795 to 926* and the total amount of fares and concessionary reimbursement received has increased from £1752 to £2581.
We consider it is well worth continuing with this service if sufficient funding can be identified.”
The North Wealden Community Transport Partnership (NWCTP) has stated that it will endeavour to cover any increased costs in 2019/20 by raising fares and rationalising the route, so do not intend to add to the current contribution made by the parishes of Framfield,
Hartfield, Marshfield and Uckfield.
Heathfield to be cut?
NWCTP has stated that unless funding can be obtained to cover the Heathfield section of this route the service will be amended to exclude Heathfield to enable the overall cost to be reduced proportionately.
– extracted from an Uckfield Town Council report
* During discussion on the topic, Cllr Macve said the 926 figure was incorrect. Accompanying data showed the figure should be 826, he said.
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