Of immediate concern to people living in Fleetwood and Over Wyre are decisions being made in Preston by Lancashire County Council to cut transport subsidies as part of an exercise to meet Government funding reductions to the Council in 2016/17. These are of a significant order and already impact on the tram service which receives £280,000 from Preston towards the cost of maintaining an operation north of Cleveleys. This grant will no longer be provided from April. Blackpool Council who face very similar sizeable reduction to their Unitary Authority grant are having to make hard choices of their own in Council services. It is unlikely that Blackpool would be in a position to absorb the County Council's subsidy and this is now the subject of review by the affected authorities which include Wyre Council.
Well at least BTS bus routes to Fleetwood are unaffected by budget cuts by Lancashire County Council - this is 2013 and the popular 14 Service which terminates next to the tram service at Fleetwood Ferry (for the time being)......
Even worse for Fleetwood is the impact on local bus services which are now facing
the axe and depriving some small communities of any external public transport access. The Knott End Ferry is affected and similarly is seeing its operating subsidy withdrawn with consequent closure of this vital link. Blackpool's bus services 1 and 14 are unaffected so the option of travelling to Fleetwood directly from Blackpool along the seafront and via Carleton and Thornton will at least be preserved but the biggest factor for seasonal travel (and local commuters) will of course be threats to the tram service beyond Cleveleys.
Nor is this idle chatter. For all the talk of the 'Northern Powerhouse' and big ticket schemes for railway upgrade - the reality is that the Fylde is being yet again hit hard by public transport closure. This time in its bus services to diverse communities as well as the all important coastal tramway in which much government investment has been made in the past decade. Substitute George Osborne for Dr Beeching and you have a better idea of the impact of these budgetary decisions in this part of England.
There may be some scope for compromise at the end of the day but according to the news headlines this week in Fleetwood this seems remote indeed with all Local Authorities scrambling to find ways of plugging budget holes and protecting as best they can - essential services to their communities. Lancashire seems particularly ill placed in this context. Public private sector transport partnerships may become a factor to deal with the current shortfall in bus and tram service subsidies (outside of Blackpool).
Image : John Woodman