Have Stone passengers’ protests over threatened bus service cuts helped changed the County Council’s mind?
Instead of cuts, the new bus timetables, which came into force on April 28th, actually offer better and more consistent bus services, the County Council claims. The county council does not offer bus services directly, but works closely with bus companies and other partners to provide supported services that complement the commercially provided network. In January, the Council consulted on proposed changes to eleven bus routes in Stone, Uttoxeter, Lichfield and Burton.
In Stone, passengers and Town Councillors had protested that the four-day consultation had been carried out a short notice and was far too brief. Stone bus users Julie Reeves and Pat Howard launched a petition campaign, riding local buses to collect 1600 signatures which they presented with County Councillor Philip Jones to County Hall in February.
The County Council, however, maintain that its consultation was valid. 600 people had responded to its consultation with the majority saying they wanted to see current bus services retained.
Now, new contracts have been awarded to a variety of travel companies who will ensure local people feel the benefits of better connectively and a more consistent service, they say. Major improvements to routes include: increasing the number of journeys between Stone and Longton; a doubling of the number of buses on the 841 service between Stafford and Uttoxeter via Great Heywood and Hixon; and a creating new hourly service, the 23/23A to take over the current X5 route from Stone to Hanley. County Councillor Simon Tagg, Cabinet Support Member for Transport and the Connected County said:
“These changes are based on how well the services are currently being used. We have enhanced the routes that local people use the most, and most importantly, not taken away any route where there is clear demand for it. By joining up budgets, conducting a thorough tendering process and proactively working with operators, we have been able to reduce the cost of running these services by around 20 per cent, yet still ensure there are improvements to services. The companies that have been awarded a contract were the ones that could offer the services required, represented the best value for money and could guarantee a consistent service for local people.”
Stone County Councillor Philip Jones is also pleased with the outcome.
“I am delighted to say that not only have we kept the services but some have significantly improved. Walton, Oulton and Aston Lodge now have a half-hourly service. Stonefield and Cherryfields have an hourly service which is a big improvement for Cherryfields which hitherto only had four journeys a day. Stone – Longton now has seven journeys a day, up from the previous two. Also, the new services have come in under budget so I congratulate the Planning and Procurement team at the County Council. My thanks also go to Julie Reeves and Pat Howard whose campaigning gave such strength to my efforts to keep local bus services.”
Do you think local bus services have improved since April 28th ? Get in touch and tell us what you think!