By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter
BUS services across Bristol could be cut as the city council is facing a £2.2 million budget shortfall.
Morning, evening, Sunday and bank holiday services that the council supports could all be axed.
Certain journeys on the number 4 city centre to Downend, the 8 and 9 Temple Meads loop and the 20 Hengrove to Southmead are among the many that could be scrapped.
Night buses, the Henbury yellow school bus, harbour ferries, orbital buses, shopper services and the Easyrider could also be affected.
And some park and ride charges could increase to help plug the funding gap, which the council has just two weeks to sort out.
The problem has developed because attempts to cut the amount of money the council spends on supported transport services have failed.
Instead of making savings, the costs of running the 81 bus contracts, two ferries and one rail service are actually set to go up by around 25 per cent.
The council would have to pay an extra £1.2 million just to fund the same services it currently runs.
On top of that it has budgeted to make £1 million of cuts from the budget as part of its £35 million savings plan for this year and the next.
Last year the council decided to put all of the services it subsidises out to tender in one go, because many of them were due for renewal. The idea was to encourage competition between companies and save money on the £5.2 million the council spends every year on supporting public transport.
It was also supposed to attract interest from major firms that do not currently operate in Bristol, to try and end the dominance of First.
The council has not revealed who the tendering companies are yet, but the Post understands the exercise only attracted one major new company and that their offer was too costly to be considered.
The increased tender costs have been blamed on fuel price rises, the cut in the government grant to bus operators and a reduction in the money the government pays towards concessionary services.
Community transport and dial-a-ride services will be protected from the cuts, as they have already taken a reduction in council support.
The Severn Beach line is also unlikely to be affected, as the cost of that contract has been cut in half from £400,000 to £200,000 due to the increase in passenger numbers.
The council has also decided not to touch the £7.5 million it spends on concessionary travel, which includes bus passes.
But the authority says everything else is on the table.
It is a major blow for the council and former executive member for transport Gary Hopkins, who was very vocal in his belief that this approach would be a success.
Mr Hopkins is no longer in the post, as he was replaced by Whitchurch councillor Tim Kent following the local elections on May 5.
In one of his first big decisions in his new post, the new transport boss will have to decide where the axe will fall.
Mr Kent said: “This is not good news. This is about as ‘front line service’ as you can get.
“The idea is to keep a good, robust public transport service to serve the people of Bristol.
“I don’t know how we can seriously be a city where transport ends at 9pm at night.
“The reality is that in the current economic climate it’s a bad time to be a bus operator. I’m hopeful we can somehow work this to keep the core services running.
“But there are some services that will have to go – that’s definite.”
The council will have to decide what services it will cut on June 9, with the changes to come into effect by late August or early September.
Before then Mr Kent wants residents, councillors and passengers to tell him which services they want to see saved and why.
He was due to meet with First today to discuss the situation.
A full list of the services that could be affected will appear in the Evening Post and on this website tomorrow.