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Gloucestershire Business News

Vital bus service reprieved – for now

A hard-hitting protest organised through social media to stop South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) from axing a lifeline bus service that connects bordering Gloucestershire communities looks to have won a victory - at least for now.

SGC planned to drop the 84 and 85 service from Wotton-under-Edge to Yate, connecting many otherwise overlooked villages, on June 3rd.

But SGC has now said it will keep the timetable running for another three months while it looks at alternative solutions.

On Friday, operator The Big Lemon stepped in with provision announced by SGC, albeit with a reduction of bus frequency from hourly to two-hourly.

A spokesman said: "This new service will ensure communities in South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire served by the route remain connected and provides time for a more permanent solution to be investigated. South Gloucestershire Council will work with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and neighbouring authorities Gloucestershire County Council, Stroud District Council, Wotton Under Edge Town Council, as well as the parish and town councils served by these routes, to develop a long-term plan to continue to deliver the service."

Protest to the planned decommissioning of the route was spearheaded through Facebook by the 'Save the W-U-E to Yate Bus Group' and spokeswoman Barbara Lawrence has welcomed the reprieval after the campaign garnered coverage in regional TV news.

Ms Lawrence said she hoped local authorities can keep "communication open and just find a final solution for us."

Chris Willmore, SGC cllr for planning, regeneration and infrastructure said: "We know how vital this service is to many of our local communities and share the concerns about its removal.

"We are very grateful to the various campaign groups for all they have been doing to collect the heart-breaking evidence of these impacts and bring them to the centre stage of this issue."

Heartfelt impact statements on the vital nature of the service look to have won the campaign for now. Statements collated by the Facebook campaign included residents who live along the route.

One woman wrote: "I am 76 and have no local family, live alone, have no car or anyone to give me lifts. I spent about ten years increasingly housebound, looking after my husband who has Alzheimers. During the first lockdown he had to go into hospital and from there into residential care, where he remains. I spent all of our lockdowns alone, including Christmases and my birthdays. Due to my husband being in care I cannot afford taxis. I have just begun rebuilding my life so the loss of any means to get to Yate has been devastating for me."

Others warned that walkers use the bus to access the Cotswold way and the loss would surely impact trade in Wotton.

Another said: "With much regret I have notified my employer that I will have to leave at the end of May. I am a key worker having to work thoughout the Covid shutdowns," while another highlighted the loss of a connection for ongoing care at Southmead Hospital, warning that bus users taking the 84 and 85 service also contribute to South Gloucestershire's economy.

A parent of a student at Katharine Lady Berkeley's school also pointed out that young people could be "effectively imprisoned" if the service went.

"My 13-year-old son uses this with his friends as a first step towards independent travel," another parent told Punchline. "We are just dismayed that it was even thought to be up for grabs. Where is our local MP's voice on protecting the framework for rural communities on his patch?"

In a statement made before the reprieval, Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: "I have been in touch with WECA (West of England Combined Authority) and Gloucestershire County Council about the closure of bus service routes 84 and 85. Of course both are saying that these decisions have been made because of a shortage of money. However, I absolutely understand the sense of isolation that Wotton residents feel as a result of the loss of these services particularly following the closure of Lloyds Bank."

He added: "Both authorities are planning to have some sort of on demand service so I will be recontacting both to see what more can be done to help the people of Wotton."

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