South Gloucestershire Conservatives have kicked off a campaign to save bus services in Bitton and Oldland Common after First Bus announced they are cutting the 37 and 17A rural bus services.
Taking the initiative, Bitton Councillor Erica Williams organised a public meeting at the Kingswood Civic Centre, in which local residents and councillors could discuss the changes with James Freeman, Managing Director of First in the West of England. This was attended by over 200 people, including councillors from Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire, who challenged the decisions taken.
A large number of residents expressed their unhappiness with the proposed cuts, with some pointing out that they will be unable to commute either to school or work, others that they will be unable to visit friends and relatives, and yet others worried that they will be left wholly isolated in their villages.
At the meeting James Freeman acknowledged the concerns and anger of local residents, but refused to alter the changes, or to look at providing alternative arrangements. As such, Conservative councillors will now be meeting with Council officers at South Gloucestershire to examine whether it is possible to find a way to minimise the impact the changes will have on people’s lives.
Speaking of the campaign, Cllr Erica Williams commented: “These changes have not been properly consulted on, and will do untold damage to people’s ability to go about their daily lives. If people can’t get to work or school, visit their friends or relatives, or go shopping because their only local bus service has been axed they will be left isolated. Budgets are tight everywhere, especially here at the Council, but we are going to investigate whether something can be done.”
Adding to these comments, Cllr Colin Hunt, lead member for Transport said: “First Bus are claiming that it is no longer profitable to run these routes. Whilst I sympathise, I think that they also, as the overwhelmingly dominant bus provider in the area, have social responsibilities. At the very least they shouldn’t be leaving people who have had reliable bus services their whole lives to be cut off.
“I will be meeting with Council officers to discuss this issue. Our budgets are tight, but I want to see if there is anything we can do without unfairly impacting other bus users.”
For more information please contact Simon Schofield on Simon.Schofield@southglos.gov.uk or 01454864204.