AN efficient public transport network is vital in helping sustain a thriving local economy, especially in small market towns without rail services.

One only needs to look at the number of passengers disembarking on market day in Devizes or Marlborough to realise how important such a network is.

Independent research by international auditing firm KPMG has shown that every £1 invested in bus services returns an average of £2.50-£3.50 in benefits, including wider economic and social impacts.

Not only that, but for many elderly, young and low-income families, subsidised buses are a lifeline providing the only affordable means of getting to hospitals, schools or workplaces.

Finally, acknowledging the significant problems of congestion and air pollution in Devizes, improved and well-promoted bus services were a fundamental element of the Devizes Transport Strategy, the Devizes Area Community Plan and Wiltshire Council’s own Wiltshire Local Transport Plan.

In light of this, the proposal by Wiltshire Council to cut local funding for subsidised bus services not only demonstrates economic ignorance, it also undermines the recommendations of its own reports.

The public consultation exercise by Wiltshire Council is a sham exercise skewed so that every result supports cuts.

The shame of this is that an alternative that saves taxpayer money but retains services is available. This is the ‘Option 24/7’ proposal (, put together by a group of transport industry specialists. It would require private operators to sign up to Quality Bus Contracts, which demand they use a proportion of the profits to subsidise loss-making services. Surely this a sensible and workable alternative?

I would urge all bus users, and business owners who have customers who are bus users, to contact their unitary councillors and ask them to consider all the alternatives to these unnecessary and counterproductive cuts.

SIMON THOMPSON, Devizes Green Party