Lincoln Walk and Ride on its last legs

The future of the Walk and Ride bus service that provides a link between Lincoln’s city centre and the Bailgate area is under review by the City Council.

The mini bus service, run since 2001 by the City of Lincoln Council, is under threat of closure due to large cuts within the council’s budget and lack of interest in the service commercially.

In order to save it, the council is hoping another company will come forward and bid for the service.

In an Executive Meeting on May 29, the council also agreed to further consult with Lincolnshire County Council and Lincoln BIG on the implications of closing the service, or alternative ways of funding the current or a similar service.

Walk and Ride was initially set up by the council to encourage residents and tourists to shop both uphill and in the city centre.

This started as just a route between House of Fraser and Castle Square, but was later extended to 10 more stops with funding from Lincoln BIG.

Lincoln BIG withdrew its funding in 2010, but the council covered the cost of the service.

The first bus used was a prototype electric powered bus, although this was switched to two low-emission diesel vehicles in 2006. These are now reaching the end of their serviceable life.

Last year the service carried over 74,000 passenger journeys, but in previous years greater numbers have used the service: 95,000 passengers in 2008/09 and 104,000 passengers in 2006/07.

The current service will cost the City Council around £199,790 in public subsidy to operate, plus the renewal of vehicles costing another £200,000, some £90,000 of which are already in reserves.

Lincolnshire County Council offered a £10,000 grant to help keep the service running going forward (£5,000 less than previously).

The City Council has put the service to tender to be run commercially, but despite interest initially, no companies have come forward so far to put in an official bid.

The City Council’s main concern is accessibility of the hill to those who use the service regularly, but it intends to work with the current operator to continue a service until a there’s formal decision.

John Bibby, Director of Housing and Community Services, said: “As a result of the government’s austerity programme and the 2012 Local Government Finance Settlement, the City Council is faced with the need to find £3 million savings over the next three years.

“To balance our budget we are having to take some very difficult decisions in order to enable the council to continue to provide essential core services.

“The Walk and Ride Scheme is forecast to cost the council more than £200,000 over the next five years, with the current vehicles are nearing the end of their useful life and needing to be replaced.

“We have been looking at attracting bids from bus operators to run the service without any public subsidy but have been unsuccessful.

“As a consequence the council will now be consulting on a proposal to close the service. The present contract for provision of the Walk and Ride service expires at the end of June 2013 but we will enter into negotiations to continue the service to the end of August 2013 pending a final decision on the future of the service.”