“Let’s be clear – the local bus services operated by Chelston Leisure Services (t/a Local Link) are, primarily, operated commercially. They are NOT local authority tendered services. Local Link are a small operator and as such have lower overheads than larger bus operators and until now have been able to continue to run services that others would not have wished to operate commercially. Pressures on costs have made this more and more difficult in recent years.

 

One element of the shortfall in costs has been the reimbursement for English National Concessionary pass holders, because of the high retired population in Torbay many of the customers carried by the company hold these passes and the company has to be reimbursed for carrying them.

 

The level of reimbursement is based on a complex statutory formula and like many smaller operators the company is no longer satisfied that this formula is fit for purpose. This reduced reimbursement is just one element of the short fall that has hit operators in recent years.

 

It has become more and more difficult to recruit and retain suitable staff. Vehicle operating costs have increased in recent years with the need to invest in accessible vehicles and the cost of providing additional staff training all have to be borne by the operator. Insurance costs have also risen markedly. The only way to recover these costs is to increase fares considerably for those who still pay cash and the company do not believe that would be appropriate.

 

The potential implications for commercial bus operators of impending legislation are also a major concern. Local Link have considered all the factors and a decision has been made to pull out of the local bus service market. The company has given the statutory 56 days notice to terminate these services and this will give other operators an opportunity to come forward and indicate whether they wish to run any of these services or incorporate them into their existing networks. It will then be for the local authority to decide whether they wish to support any gaps in the network that continue to exist once operators have declared what if anything they wish to run commercially.”

 

On a more personal note, this is a very sad time for the operators and staff of the Local Link and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our passengers for their support and continued loyalty over the past 13 years.

 

Derek and Jeanette French