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Commuters have their say on town bus services
RESIDENTS affected by borough-wide bus cuts were given a chance to air their views to transport bosses at a public consultation event.
A Stagecoach “feedback bus” parked in Brighton Hill’s Asda, and Tewkesbury Close, in Popley, last Friday, to provide a forum for the concerns of bus users affected by changes in the service.
In October last year, Hampshire County Council slashed its transport budget by 45 per cent following a reduction in Government funding.
In the wake of the subsidy cut, the bus operator was forced to stop services after 9.30pm, scale back Sunday buses, and axe a two-mile loop on Route 5 linking Popley and Oakridge to Basingstoke hospital.
On the feedback bus was a transport officer from Basingstoke and Deane, as well as Hampshire County Council, and managing director of Stagecoach South, Andrew Dyer. Mr Dyer said the feedback would help the company look at how to improve the service.
He said: “From our point of view, it is really important to have direct feedback from customers, where you can talk to them in more detail. One of the biggest concerns has been the lack of bus services in the evening. Even a year on, it is still a subject of great concern.
“It is one of those difficult situations where the number of people travelling is not large enough to make the service commercially viable.
“We will take responses from the people we are speaking to and start talking to the borough and county councils about the feedback we have all got, and the issue about late evening bus services is something else we will raise.”
At the consultation, Queen Mary’s College students Becca Druce, Hannah Busby, Robyn Gaimster, and Beth Cohen, all 17, complained of overcrowded, unreliable buses, and no evening services.
And Brighton Hill borough councillor Carolyn Wooldridge urged Stagecoach, and the two councils to “listen to the residents”.
“I think the success of today depends on if Stagecoach listen and take on board the issues raised,” she said. “Events like these show they are listening, but they really need to act now.”
Councillor Cathy Osselton, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Cabinet member for partnerships, said the borough is undertaking a transport subsidy review, due to be published later this year, and she added that feedback will be used to look into improving public transport in the borough.
She said: “We are working with Stagecoach and Hampshire, as well as the hospital and all our stakeholders to ensure everybody has their say. But if we find a good solution, then we will go ahead and do it – we won’t wait until next year.”