COUNCILLORS have voted to axe the shuttle bus service which runs in Basingstoke, as part of a range of budget cuts.

The shuttle bus service, which has been running for more than twenty years, currently runs Monday - Saturday and takes people to the Leisure Park or Basing View.

According to the council’s website, the Centre Shuttle is intended to appeal to:

  • Local workers travelling from Basingstoke Station to Basing View
  • Commuters who are having difficulty parking at Basing View or in the town centre
  • Leisure Park users or Milestones Museum visitors travelling from the Railway Station or town centre
  • Shoppers who may wish to park more cheaply at the Leisure Park and travel into the town centre
  • Those wishing to visit attractions at both the town centre and the Leisure Park on the same day.

It usually runs every 15 minutes, but has been reduced to 30 minute intervals during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, as part of the council’s Budget for 2021/22, which was approved at a full council meeting on Thursday (February 25), the service will end in April.

A motion for an amendment to the budget was put forward by the Labour group, which sought to save the shuttle service.

Cllr Andy McCormick, leader of the Labour group, put forward the motion, and it was seconded by Cllr Kim Taylor (Labour, Brighton Hill).

The second amendment - which also suggested that waste collection charges be frozen, not raised - would have seen a total change of £200,000 in the budget.

The bid to save the shuttle service was backed up by comments from several councillors.

Cllr Gary Watts (Labour, South Ham) said the shuttle bus was a "proud achievement" of a previous administration and is "still an affective service" which is "essential" and only being cut "in light of covid, which is totally wrong".

Cllr Colin Regan (Labour, South Ham) also agreed with the amendment, because losing the shuttle bus "is not in the interest of any of the Basingstoke residents".

Speaking about the reduced bus service to South Ham over a number of years, Cllr Regan added: "We set up the pink bus, the shuttle bus service, to fill the gap."

However, Cllr Mark Ruffell, cabinet member for planning, infrastructure and natural environment, disputed reference to passenger numbers on the shuttle being in decline only due to the pandemic.

He said passenger numbers have declined for "quite some time", adding: "The service is inadequate. It's taking the wrong people from the wrong place to the wrong destination. It will never deliver what it was meant to deliver in the first place."

He said it encourages people to drive into the centre of the borough to then go where they want cheaply, stating that it "contributes to congestion" and that most people using it "are from outside the borough" and that the council's longer-term plans for transport within the town would be more appropriate.

"Trying to keep it running is pandering to nostalgia," he said.

Cllr Taylor responded: "The people who will be hurt the most by the removal of the shuttle bus are not out-of-towners but people who are elderly and disabled, because that's what our records show."

The Labour amendment to the budget was voted down by councillors, with 18 votes for, 29 against and 9 abstentions.

The administration's proposed budget - which included the axing of the service - was then approved later in the meeting, with 30 votes for, 16 against and 10 abstentions.