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8,500 responses to £3m bus cuts across Worcestershire
A RECORD-BREAKING 8,500 people have got involved a controversial consultation to slash bus route funding in Worcestershire.
The county council has revealed it has received an unprecedented number of responses over plans to axe a £3 million public transport subsidy.
As your Worcester News first revealed in October, the cut places 88 bus services along 43 different routes at risk.
It also affects Worcester's two park and ride services at Perdiswell and Sixways, which would need to be operated commercially in order to survive.
The consultation came to an end on Friday, and transport chiefs are now filtering through the feedback.
The massive response has led to calls for the consultation to be extended, but the council's Conservative leadership says there is no need.
Councillor Alan Amos, from the opposition Labour group, said: "Given the fact there's been an unprecedented (number of) responses, that alone shows how much fear and concern there has been over this."
His request for an extended period of public dialogue was considered by the council last week but thrown out.
Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "We've got no plans to extend it and the officers will be looking all the feedback very closely.
"What we've done is good and the response has been very pleasing.
"It wasn't just a case of 'do you want this bus or not', we asked people 'do you use it, why do you like using it', and so on - the consultation has been a very useful exercise."
The council is battling huge budget pressures and needs to chop £98 million off spending by 2017.
Back in 2011 it removed £2.5 million off public transport subsidies, but removing the £3 million would see all of the remaining spending vanish.
It affects scores of evening and weekend services, rural routes and ones taking people in and out of Worcester to outerlying areas.
The council says the average subsidy is £1.04 per user, with the highest costing £8.24 for every passenger.
It wants private operators to pick up the mantle by altering routes or increasing prices so they are run commercially.
Those routes which cannot be made profitable face the scrapheap.
It has been heavily criticised by the Campaign for Better Transport, which has labelled the move "a disaster".