Public meeting on bus services
Under-fire bus companies have been told to do more to listen to the needs of passengers across the Waveney area during a fiery public meeting.About 100 people converged on the Gunton community hall in Lowestoft as the bosses of two bus firms faced passionate demands to improve services.
Under-fire bus companies have been told to do more to listen to the needs of passengers across the Waveney area during a fiery public meeting.
About 100 people converged on the Gunton community hall in Lowestoft as the bosses of two bus firms faced passionate demands to improve services.
Members of the audience, including many pensioners, complained they had been left stranded because vital services had been cut or re-routed.
However, the managing director of the area's biggest bus company insisted services could only be maintained if there was enough public demand to make them commercially viable.
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Friday evening's meeting was called by Waveney MP Bob Blizzard after he received a big increase in complaints about bus services from his constituents.
Mr Blizzard said it was not enough for bus companies to only consult local councils and passenger transport groups about proposed changes.
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“The last time we had major changes, I received a phenomenal number of complaints,” he added. “There is a feeling when timetables are changed or a route is taken away that people aren't being consulted or listened to. I want to get to a situation where the bus companies have a lot more public engagement.”
Mr Blizzard revealed that a new bill currently going through Parliament would give local councils more powers to work in partnership with bus companies to provide services where they were needed.
Peter Iddon, managing director of First Eastern Counties, said his company's commitment to improving services was shown by an investment of more than £10m in replacing old buses.
He added: “We do not provide a public service, but we do deliver a service to the public. Bus companies, these days, have to operate as a commercial business. If we can't break even and make profits then, simply, we can't afford to operate these services.”
Areas such as the Park Hill estate in Lowestoft, Carlton Colville and Beccles were among areas identified by the audience as not having adequate services.
Mr Blizzard promised to speak to the managers of the main Tesco supermarket in Lowestoft to ensure improvements are carried out to allow buses to drop off and pick up passengers in its car park.
He also said a bid for the High Street in Lowestoft to be made one-way had also been handed in to Suffolk County Council after First buses axed the route because of safety fears.
Chandani Patel, who runs the North Lowestoft Post Office, in the High Street, said: “It has discouraged so many customers from coming to this part of the town and it is dying.”
Speaking after the meeting, district councillor Malcolm Cherry said: “All we hear are excuses of why we aren't able to have these services. I think it is disgusting.”
County councillor Julian Swainson said he would urge transport chiefs at Suffolk County Council to increase subsidies to improve services.
Andrew Pursey, director of Anglian Coaches, also attended the meeting and told the audiences that three quarters of the routes he operates in Norfolk and Suffolk were subsidised by local councils.