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Gloucestershire Business News

Confusion over ‘saved’ bus services

Following reports last month that Stagecoach West is to cut or change bus services across the county, the county council said it has saved thousands of journeys.

After working to find new providers for routes cut by the bus company, Gloucestershire County Council said it has saved 350,000 journeys.

In a recent press release, the council said it acted quickly to try and ensure that no one would be left isolated and has protected around 350,000 of the journeys that the Stagecoach West cuts would have lost.

However, not all the routes could be replaced, and in those cases alternative ways of getting around are being promoted. This includes making use of more innovative modes of transport such as dial-a-ride, community transport and 'The Robin' which has recently been launched in the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds. In addition, personal transport planners will be on hand to talk to anyone who needs extra help.

Cllr Philip Robinson, cabinet member for transport, said: "I promised communities across Gloucestershire that we would work tirelessly to avoid people being left isolated when these routes were cut by Stagecoach. In an extremely challenging context, the team have been able to save 350,000, about 70 per cent, of these journeys. Where no bus provider could be found, we are promoting alternative transport solutions such as dial-a-ride, community transport and the new 'Robin' service.

"Stagecoach has left many communities across the county high and dry. This is unacceptable to the county council and it's one of the reasons why I reported Stagecoach to the Traffic Commissioner. We are not prepared to let Stagecoach get away with treating communities this way. The people of Gloucestershire deserve better, and I will remain steadfast in my commitment to them and my efforts in delivering public transport that works."

But Cllr Tim Gwilliam, leader of Forest of Dean District Council, needs more clarity from the county council.

He said: "I am pleased that Gloucestershire County Council have made efforts to replace the services that were removed without consultation from the Forest of Dean by Stagecoach.

"It is however difficult for me to add further comment at this time, as there is still little clarity in terms of a timetable, or schedule for any of the proposed 'new' services."

Cllr Gwilliam continued: "There are also continued references to Lydney Dial-a-Ride being available, but Lydney Dial-a-Ride has been operating very successfully for a number of years in the Forest and it's unclear if the references are to an expanded service or simply to what has previously existed.

"The Robin service is also referred to, and of course this was initially set up to provide on demand transport to transport hubs from outlying areas in the south of the district. It's unclear if the county council is now saying that they will use the Robin minibus to replace previous Stagecoach routes throughout the Forest, but at present that service (even if expanded) only operates in a small area in the south of the Forest.

"Cabinet members and lead officers have a meeting scheduled with Cllr Robinson in the coming weeks, where hopefully more information will be forthcoming."

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "Ever since the 1985 Transport Act, bus services have been in decline in Gloucestershire. It's ironic that the Tory government minister at the time was Gloucestershire MP, Nicholas Ridley. Many county communities lost their bus service years ago.

"I welcome the news that 70 per cent of the current cuts have been saved, but 30 per cent of much-needed bus services will be lost. Those without a car will be disadvantaged.

"There is also serious problem of non-appearing buses that Stagecoach needs to address. I was at the bus stop on Cheltenham Road waiting for the 94 bus on Tuesday. Two scheduled buses did arrive. It is supposed to be a 10-minute service. I had to wait 25 minutes. It's not good enough."

Punchline said: "It's good news that the county council appears to have been able to save some of the bus journeys which would have been lost through Stagecoach cuts.

"Cuts to bus services disproportionately affect those living in areas of deprivation and rural areas, as well as the very young and very old. The council has a policy of getting people on buses. It wants less cars on the road, but we need a decent bus service which gets people to work and school on time. There is still more to be done to ensure everyone has fair access to public transport.

"It's ironic that the secretary of state for transport is our own Forest of Dean MP, Mark Harper. Can he sort it out for his constituents, as well as the whole country?"

What do you think? Email news@moosemarketingandpr.co.uk.

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