COUNCIL bosses and bus companies must step up and take action to improve the county's bus service, a scrutiny group has said.

Members of the county council's overview and scrutiny performance board had their say on a draft review of Worcestershire's beleaguered bus system on Wednesday (December 5) with many calling on the council's leaders to start taking a long-term approach.

Councillor Chris Bloore, chairman of both the scrutiny board and the group which compiled the bus review, said: “One of the big issues was there is no incentive for bus companies to increase the number of people on their buses.

“For the last seven, eight or nine years we have been designing a service or handing out subsidies based on a decreasing financial envelope rather than shaping what we want the service to look like in the future.

“I think this is a starting point. This is not a document that is meant to answer all the questions and problems we have with the bus service and public transport in Worcester. It is meant to be helpful.”

Cllr Liz Eyre, vice chairman of the scrutiny board, said it was a chance for the council’s leadership to take on board the report and step up.

She said: “We need proper leadership on this issue for the future.”

The draft paper, compiled by a cross-party scrutiny group, called on the council to take a long-term strategic approach to public transport.

The report called for a review into the council's bus subsidy criteria with a view to ensuring towns and larger villages have a minimum daily service in a bid to combat social isolation and ensuring timetables are accurate and readily available, expanding the contactless payment system and by improving marketing and publicity of the buses.

Cllr Paul Middlebrough said: “The executive has got to take significant note of the report.

"It is not going to be done overnight.

"The problems have crept on us probably over a ten-year period without us fully understanding what the consequences were going to be.

“Let’s try and reverse as far as we can those consequences over a much shorter time scale.”

Cllr Paul Denham, who was part of the scrutiny group that compiled the report, said Worcestershire needed a better bus service for the sake of the health of its people.

He said: “If you don’t have buses and therefore everybody assumes that the only way they can get around is by driving a car then you end up causing congestion which in turn produces pollution.”