£700,000 to save buses

SAVING rural bus services in Bedfordshire will cost more than £700,000. That was the message given to Potton residents yesterday (Wednesday) at a public meeting to hear about what happens after Stagecoach withdraws services in the town and other areas fro

SAVING rural bus services in Bedfordshire will cost more than £700,000.

That was the message given to Potton residents yesterday (Wednesday) at a public meeting to hear about what happens after Stagecoach withdraws services in the town and other areas from February 18.

Stagecoach announced before Christmas it was axing loss-making routes mostly across East Bedfordshire leaving it to Bedfordshire County Council to find a solution to subsidise many of the services if they wanted to save them.

The meeting at Potton Lower School was called by the Biggleswade and District Pensioners' Association and Stagecoach and once again, as in Langford the previous week, there was standing room only.


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Association chairman Ken Lynch told the meeting: "Once again we have come face to face with those who are going to make the decisions about the buses. Let us believe there is hope for our services at the end of the day."

Frank Hendrix, treasurer of the association, said: "It has been known for some months this all might happen and services might be withdrawn and we are hoping there will eventually be a solution."

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North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt told the meeting the plight of rural buses in Bedfordshire was now a major talking point not just in the county but at Westminster as well.

"I stood in Bigglewade town centre last Saturday and in a few hours had 300 signed questionnaires concerning buses. People are concerned," said Mr Burt.

"I am going to do what I can to preserve bus services in towns and rural areas but people have been left in the dark when they shouldn't have been.

"I just hope those who make the decisions on the buses appreciate the impact they will make on communities.

"Unfortunately people are working with a limited pot of money and they cannot always provide every service residents want.

"Bedfordshire needs buses and we are going to make sure the people are heard."

James Freeman, managing director of Stagecoach, said some services no longer survived through passengers paying for tickets.

"It doesn't happen like that anymore and this has happened with the 178 and 188 service in Potton," said Mr Freeman.

"The services could not go on as they were. It is not the end of bus services in the area but the end of Stagecoach services."

Cllr Tom Wootton, transport portfolio holder for Bedfordshire County Council, said the cost of saving many services was going to be expensive.

"We now have some solutions but we already spend £2.5m subsidising bus services," said Cllr Wootton.

"We have been working hard trying to find solutions so we maintain some services and estimate it is going to cost £700,000 at least.

"There will be fewer services especially in the evenings and at weekends. It is a huge problem and is going to cost a lot of money.

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