Full scale of bus cuts anger revealed

Malvern Gazette: Worcestershire County Council: anger over bus cuts Worcestershire County Council: anger over bus cuts

THE DEVASTATION of plans to slash bus routes across Worcestershire can today be laid bare - with schools, colleges, hospitals, businesses and vulnerable people pleading for a reprieve.

Your Worcester News has obtained a copy of a dossier detailing some of the 8,500 responses on county council proposals to axe an entire £3 million transport subsidy from September, hitting 97 services.

It reveals:

- 15 separate petitions have been handed to County Hall in recent weeks containing 6,059 signatures

- Of the 8,500 general comments, 2,000 of them cited fears over being 'isolated from the rest of society' while 1,500 were concerned about the impact on getting to school or college

- 65 per cent said they would be "very likely or quite likely" to have no alternative means of travel if their bus is withdrawn

- 49 per cent of respondents said they would rather pay more than see a service chopped completely, with a majority of those saying they would accept up to 50p extra per trip

- Nine schools or colleges opposed it, including Worcester Sixth Form College, calling it "disastrous" and "perverse"

- Nine bus operators got involved, calling it "unjust", saying would lead to "severe repercussions" for society and insisting some customers are "totally reliant" on public transport to get around

- The Acute Hospitals NHS Trust say it will have an "adverse affect on patients and staff" at Worcestershire Royal, the Alex and Kidderminster Hospital

- The Federation of Small Businesses, Mencap, the Dyslexia Association and scores of other campaign bodies, community groups, parish councils and organisations have also hit out

- All six MPs took part in it, saying they find it "unfair" the entire £3 million subsidy is set to go Your Worcester News can now reveal no decisions are likely to be made on the cuts until around June.

The council says it needs time to digest the feedback and work on solutions with operators, saying they "may be" a possibility some can be saved by charging higher fares or altering routes.

The council has 330 pages of responses and has produced a 79-page summary which has been circulated to politicians.

The contents were debated during a meeting of the economy, environment and communities panel, where officers rejected questioning around "scrapping" the cuts given the public concern.

Councillor Ken Pollock, who chairs the panel, said: "When you look at these responses and how convincing it is, do you think 'let's go back to cabinet and say let's scrap the whole idea, it's not worth it'?"

Peter Blake, head of integrated transport, said the huge volume of responses were a "testimony to the community".

"What we now need to do is digest this information and come forward with a series of recommendations," he said.

"We've had a very significant response and are still working through the analysis of that."

He said the negative responses were "not a surprise" given most people taking part were bus users.

The report will be discussed by the Conservative cabinet today, but no decisions will be made until the summer.

The routes under threat make up 20 per cent of the total network.

Of the 8,497 responses 61 per cent were from women, and the biggest age group represented was 65 to 80, 34 per cent of the total.

But the spread covered all ages - 20 per cent were 45-64, 19 per cent under 16 and 14 per cent 16-24.

What the schools and colleges said

- Hanley Castle High School said it would "prove disastrous and a false economy", adding it would impact severely on pupil's choices of where to study post-16

- Worcester Sixth Form College said it would "undermine the whole bus network", and that students affected would "no longer come to college" or travel by car, worsening congestion and causing parking problems

- Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College said they have "grave concerns" about eight routes carrying 400 pupils and are "dismayed"

- Kidderminster College called it "perverse" and cited four services used by pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities

What the public said

- Thousands of comments were made, published anonymously, with one saying "a civilised society provides rural services which are never going to be commercially viable"

- Another resident said "the impact is scary", saying she would have to quit her job - A fellow commenter said they "would have to move house, there would be no way of visiting family and friends, I would be a prisoner in my own home"

- Other remarks included "loneliness is a killer", buses are "essential" to them, and they fear rural isolation

What bus companies said

- Whittle Coach and Bus said "the effect will be greatest on most vulnerable and most isolated residents", calling it "life changing"

- Henshaw's Travel said it would have "a devastating impact all round", revealing "many customers are elderly and have no other means of transport", and insisted it would rather run a service less frequently than not at all

-Diamond Bus Company said it would "leave people isolated" and "hit the poor, the pensioner, children and the disabled"

-First Group, Worcester's main provider, said it could prevent the company investing in the future

What Worcestershire's hospitals said

- The Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said "many patients at our three hospitals" rely on the buses to get to appointments or visit family and friends

- It says if direct services between Worcestershire Royal and the Alex is reduced it will have "an adverse affect" on staff and patients

- It says patients "regularly travel" between the two sites, especially to use urology services

- It has pleaded with the council to take the current review of acute hospital servives into account when making final decisions

What some other bodies said

- Mencap say it will "limit the ability of those with learning difficulties to move towards greater independence"

- Prostate Cancer Support Group it would "create hardship" as cancer patients "usally" use buses due to their condition

- The North Star Foundation, which works with disabled people, said the services are "critical" to them - The Mascular Society, which deals with blind and partially sighted people, says the buses in Worcestershire are "invaluable"

Comments (7)

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9:47am Thu 6 Feb 14

skychip says...

I like the comment from the Principal of the Sixth Form College about congestion - there is already congestion in the area due to the students along with County Hall employees parking - there would be nowhere in the vicinity for them to park plus the fact that some students come a long distance. Not good for the Sixth Form.
I like the comment from the Principal of the Sixth Form College about congestion - there is already congestion in the area due to the students along with County Hall employees parking - there would be nowhere in the vicinity for them to park plus the fact that some students come a long distance. Not good for the Sixth Form. skychip
  • Score: 1

10:21am Thu 6 Feb 14

uptonX says...

How can the council possibly ignore such an overwhelming response. Yes the council have a duty to consider all options, especially when times are hard, but also they have a duty to make the right choices and it is clear to all that the right choice is to retain the subsidy and protect this vital service that affects everyone - even those who don't use the buses themselves.
How can the council possibly ignore such an overwhelming response. Yes the council have a duty to consider all options, especially when times are hard, but also they have a duty to make the right choices and it is clear to all that the right choice is to retain the subsidy and protect this vital service that affects everyone - even those who don't use the buses themselves. uptonX
  • Score: 2

10:29am Thu 6 Feb 14

Hwicce says...

"49 per cent of respondents said they would rather pay more than see a service chopped completely, with a majority of those saying they would accept up to 50p extra per trip"

We there's the answer then. Up the fares to a realistic level, let the bus routes run economically without subsidy. Win win.
"49 per cent of respondents said they would rather pay more than see a service chopped completely, with a majority of those saying they would accept up to 50p extra per trip" We there's the answer then. Up the fares to a realistic level, let the bus routes run economically without subsidy. Win win. Hwicce
  • Score: 4

11:10am Thu 6 Feb 14

Arthur Blenkinsop says...

Something does need to be done. I regularly see many full-size busses with just one or two passengers, this can't be cost effective, they also add to the congestion in Worcester. Cutting services probably isn't the answer. Maybe running smaller busses more regularly on well-used routes would be a possibility.
Something does need to be done. I regularly see many full-size busses with just one or two passengers, this can't be cost effective, they also add to the congestion in Worcester. Cutting services probably isn't the answer. Maybe running smaller busses more regularly on well-used routes would be a possibility. Arthur Blenkinsop
  • Score: 5

1:01pm Thu 6 Feb 14

thompson9100 says...

Arthur Blenkinsop wrote:
Something does need to be done. I regularly see many full-size busses with just one or two passengers, this can't be cost effective, they also add to the congestion in Worcester. Cutting services probably isn't the answer. Maybe running smaller busses more regularly on well-used routes would be a possibility.
First Group, the major provider for Worcestershire, thinks that bus users are limited to only travelling to the shops in normal opening times. Bus services early in the morning and after school time are a joke - for example the 32 to St Peters has services cut dramatically after about 1530 each weekday. People will use bus services if they are frequent, reliable, and at the times they need. I've said it before, in Worcester, if I could drive I would (I can't due to sight). Other towns and Cities I've visited with a similar population or smaller provide a much better service. It is rare to see them running virtually empty, and people can get about when they want. Take Leamington Spa & Warwick, Poole, or Weymouth as examples of such.

When First (under whichever name it was then) took off the services that ran up dtoitwich road and Perdiswell to Blackpole (some via Blanquettes) they did it by reducing the service (which was well used) and when they did that they found fewer people used the service, so cut it completely. This is atypical of First.

Rural services need subsidy, they need to stay, so people can live independantly - get their shopping, get to the doctors, visit family, etc. Take a look at service 758 Tenbury to Worcester. That was cut by the council from 6 journeys a day to 4. The busses now are packed to the rafters on most runs, despite the drop in service. Why? Because people need rural services. Students, OAP's, parents, you and I. My mum lives out on this route and without it she'd be completely lost, forced to move into town, away from her home of 43 years. How fair is that? (Yes, I know the 758 isn't earmarked for cuts, but it's a **** good example).
[quote][p][bold]Arthur Blenkinsop[/bold] wrote: Something does need to be done. I regularly see many full-size busses with just one or two passengers, this can't be cost effective, they also add to the congestion in Worcester. Cutting services probably isn't the answer. Maybe running smaller busses more regularly on well-used routes would be a possibility.[/p][/quote]First Group, the major provider for Worcestershire, thinks that bus users are limited to only travelling to the shops in normal opening times. Bus services early in the morning and after school time are a joke - for example the 32 to St Peters has services cut dramatically after about 1530 each weekday. People will use bus services if they are frequent, reliable, and at the times they need. I've said it before, in Worcester, if I could drive I would (I can't due to sight). Other towns and Cities I've visited with a similar population or smaller provide a much better service. It is rare to see them running virtually empty, and people can get about when they want. Take Leamington Spa & Warwick, Poole, or Weymouth as examples of such. When First (under whichever name it was then) took off the services that ran up dtoitwich road and Perdiswell to Blackpole (some via Blanquettes) they did it by reducing the service (which was well used) and when they did that they found fewer people used the service, so cut it completely. This is atypical of First. Rural services need subsidy, they need to stay, so people can live independantly - get their shopping, get to the doctors, visit family, etc. Take a look at service 758 Tenbury to Worcester. That was cut by the council from 6 journeys a day to 4. The busses now are packed to the rafters on most runs, despite the drop in service. Why? Because people need rural services. Students, OAP's, parents, you and I. My mum lives out on this route and without it she'd be completely lost, forced to move into town, away from her home of 43 years. How fair is that? (Yes, I know the 758 isn't earmarked for cuts, but it's a **** good example). thompson9100
  • Score: -1

2:27pm Thu 6 Feb 14

green49 says...

Hardman and co just do not care what anyone thinks, the cuts are a done deal but i have heard a whisper that because of the objections the WCC might reconsider some services? pigs might fly too.
Hardman and co just do not care what anyone thinks, the cuts are a done deal but i have heard a whisper that because of the objections the WCC might reconsider some services? pigs might fly too. green49
  • Score: 0

6:06pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Jabbadad says...

With the criticisms aimed at Bus Pass holders, many older People would be quite happy to pay towards their Bus Paases as we used to before Gordon Brown made it free across England but without adequate funding, which would stop the moaners and finger pointers at we pensioners. London who run their own Busses generously accept our Bus passes.
However as the Law stands, it would be Ilegal for the County, City, District in fact all Councils to make any additional charges for Free Bus Passes.
And as said using Busses is a vital service in public transportation. Just imagin what would happen if the 9,000+Worcester City Bus Pass holders were to start to use their cars. We would know what gridlock is then.
So when deliberating, the Councils / Politicians must make public transport a priority consideration not a cash cow, which sadly is all the Tories can do without looking past the end of their spread sheets.

I also agree with bus sizes it just has to be crass bad planning to send 60+ seater busses charging around with a handfull of passengers.
I recall when First ran the 20+ seater Mercedes busses and although they weren't the last word in luxury, they didn't block the roads as much as the large ones, and I was told by a retired driver that some of them had covered over a MIllion Miles and when First changed to the bigger busses they (smaller busses) were still sold on.
With the criticisms aimed at Bus Pass holders, many older People would be quite happy to pay towards their Bus Paases as we used to before Gordon Brown made it free across England but without adequate funding, which would stop the moaners and finger pointers at we pensioners. London who run their own Busses generously accept our Bus passes. However as the Law stands, it would be Ilegal for the County, City, District in fact all Councils to make any additional charges for Free Bus Passes. And as said using Busses is a vital service in public transportation. Just imagin what would happen if the 9,000+Worcester City Bus Pass holders were to start to use their cars. We would know what gridlock is then. So when deliberating, the Councils / Politicians must make public transport a priority consideration not a cash cow, which sadly is all the Tories can do without looking past the end of their spread sheets. I also agree with bus sizes it just has to be crass bad planning to send 60+ seater busses charging around with a handfull of passengers. I recall when First ran the 20+ seater Mercedes busses and although they weren't the last word in luxury, they didn't block the roads as much as the large ones, and I was told by a retired driver that some of them had covered over a MIllion Miles and when First changed to the bigger busses they (smaller busses) were still sold on. Jabbadad
  • Score: -1

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