Councillors have called for bus companies to carry out more consultation with passengers before withdrawing services.
The call comes following a meeting between councillors from Malvern Hills District and Wychavon District Councils last Friday (7 September) with Nigel Eggleton, Managing Director of First Midlands. It was held to discuss the company’s plans to axe a number of services in the two areas from 17 September.
During the meeting councillors representing all major parties on the two councils, criticised the lack of consultation over the proposals and the limited amount of notice passengers had been given with the plans not being made public until August. They also voiced concerns about the impact the cuts would have on the elderly and those without a car trying to get to work, college and health appointments.
Councillors were told Worcestershire County Council, responsible for transport, had first been informed in May in-line with First’s legal obligations and the changes had been publicised on the Traffic Commissioner’s website six weeks beforehand. Mr Eggleton added they hadn’t more widely publicised the changes to the public until two weeks before they were due to be withdrawn as previous experience told them passengers did not engage before that point.
During the meeting councillors requested First delayed the changes to give people more time to adjust and other options to be explored but Mr Eggleton said that could only be done with financial support and permission from the Traffic Commissioner, which regulates bus services.
As a result of the meeting Wychavon and Malvern Hills District Councils will be writing to Worcestershire County Council to ask for a review of the bus subsidy budget to ensure money is being spent on the services that are needed the most.
The Leaders of both councils also won a commitment from Mr Eggleton that both authorities would be notified of any future service changes at the same time as those organisations they were legally obliged to tell.
Both councils are also exploring what other alternatives there may be to limit the severity of the cuts but any proposals are unlikely to be made in time to save those services under threat from being withdrawn.
In a joint statement Cllr David Chambers, Leader of Malvern Hills District Council and Cllr Linda Robinson, Leader of Wychavon District Council, said: “It was a constructive meeting and Mr Eggleton was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling amongst councillors and our residents about the planned service changes.
“We are deeply frustrated that both we and the public were not given more notice of the changes as this has left us with very little time to do anything to limit the severity of these cuts. We understand First cannot run services at a loss, but at the same time by failing to consult properly they have denied people the opportunity to suggest or consider alternatives such as asking people to pay more on these routes or offering a service at a reduced frequency.”