County Hall’s transport boss has said it would be cheaper to put passengers in taxis than continue to support some heavily subsidised bus routes.
Councillor Lesley Pendleton said the amount Leicestershire County Council was spending to prop up underused services – particularly in rural areas – was “startling”.
Rural Rider routes serving villages in the eastern part of the county and Rutland received a £70,500 subsidy last year, but were used by just 2,750 passengers – costing the authority about £25 per person.
The council is reviewing the amount it spends on bus subsidies in the hope of saving £750,000 a year.
Coun Pendleton, the authority’s cabinet transport spokesman, said: “In years gone by and when times were good we had the money to throw into supporting poorly used bus services. We can’t continue to spend so much on propping up bus routes which are not well used. For the Rural Riders the amount it costs us per passenger per journey is startling.
“It would be cheaper for us to put people into taxis than continue with the subsidies.
“At the moment we have nearly empty buses running across parts of the county and we are paying a lot of money for that.”
Billesdon resident Tom Thornley, 28, occasionally takes the bus from the village into Leicester.
He said: “Whenever I take the bus it is usually quite full but there have been times when it has just been me and the driver, which is almost embarrassing. I don’t think that is good use of council money – but I am not dependent on buses like some other people are.”
About 1,500 people have responded to a County Hall consultation on subsidy cuts to services. Many criticised the cuts and argued residents without access to cars will be left isolated. It is looking to replace axed routes with a demand-responsive transport service, where passengers will call to book a minibus up to a week in advance.
Leicestershire Campaign for Better Transport spokesman Terry Kirby said: “The Rural Rider is an example of a service that appears to be very poorly used and expensive to run.
“However, with many of the routes under examination there is real concern that demand responsive transport will not be an adequate replacement.”