Campaign to save ‘vital’ community bus services

Mark Hartley next to a No. 95 bus. (S)
Mark Hartley next to a No. 95 bus. (S)

Petitions have been set up across Pendle to save valued village and town bus services which could be at the end of the road.

Lancashire County Council has proposed pulling subsidies from all subsidised bus services amid an “unprecedented financial challenge” due to cuts in government funding, rising costs and rising demand.

Coun. Joe Cooney at the bus shelter in Ruskin Avenue in Colne. (S)

Coun. Joe Cooney at the bus shelter in Ruskin Avenue in Colne. (S)

Some rural routes in Pendle are facing an uncertain future when existing contracts finish on April 2nd.

According to the county council, 85% of bus services are profitable, but concerns have been raised about a number of more local services and these include the 95, 95A and 95S Colne to Burnley Hospital via Nelson service, the B1/B2 Barnoldswick town service and the No. 65 Brierfield, Pendleside villages and Nelson to Burnley bus.

Liberal Democrat activist Mark Hartley has launched an online petition to save the “little green bus” that provides the “vital” Service 95 around the houses in Colne and other parts of Pendle.

He has directed the petition to Prime Minister David Cameron and to Lancashire County Council’s Leader Jennifer Mein. By Wednesday, it had attracted 600 signatures.

We are in an impossible situation with our funding being cut to support bus services that local people desperately need

County Council

Mr Hartley said: “This petition is our contribution to the campaign to keep this service going. It’s vital for a lot of people, including older people living on the estates. There could be savings in the way the service is provided but to take it away would be a scandal.”

Pendle’s Liberal Democrat Leader Coun. Tony Greaves said: “I was closely involved when these town services were started up 30 years ago and it’s vital we now fight to keep them.

“Councillors in Colne have secured some funds from the planning permission for the new Boundary Mill garden centre to help pay for these buses and it would be criminal to just throw this money away now.”

Coun. Greaves, who is also a Lib Dem peer, challenged the government over the issue in the House of Lords to see if Conservative ministers understood the “havoc” they are causing through funding cuts, which would have “devastating” and “shocking consequences” for people.

Coun. Joe Cooney has urged people to make representations on the county council website. He said: “Service 95 is a crucial service that enables many of our elderly residents to get into town to do their shopping.

“In 2013 Colne and District area committee worked closely with Lancashire County Council officers to save the service and streamline the route.

“This latest announcement is a kick in the teeth to all who worked so hard to save the service.”

In Barnoldswick, Coun. Marjorie Adams has been delivering petition forms to shops around the town regarding the B1/B2 service.

She said: “I’ve been taking forms as far as I can really. Shops are taking them and they are attracting signatures.

“The bus service in Barnoldswick is invaluable. People can’t walk from town to the estates with their shopping, it’s a long way.

“It’s not as if it isn’t well used, sometimes it’s absolutely full. We do need the bus service in Barlick.

“A lot of people get out and about because of the bus service, it’s a lifeline for them.”

Brierfield couple Ann and James Tattersall, of Rothesay Road, use the No. 65 service regularly.

Ann (76) said: “We can only do our shopping trips on this bus. We have a problem walking back up. If we had to get on a main line bus on the main road we couldn’t walk up again.

“This goes for most people around here. There is a bus stop just round the corner on Mansfield Grove.

“We will definitely be disappointed if it goes. It will have a big impact on us and other people around here.

“We are really sad about it. Most people around here are in their middle 60s or up to their 80s. We treat it like a community bus.”

And James (83) said: “It’s free for us at the moment but we would happily pay half. The drivers enjoy us being on it. We use it a lot for shopping and getting out of the house for an hour.

“We were responsible for getting this bus running after talking to the council about it.”

John Fillis, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The county council’s financial situation is very stark and we face using the bulk of our reserves just to balance the budget over the next two years. By 2017/18, we will only just have enough money to pay for our statutory services.

“We fully recognise the impact that this will have on people who rely on frontline services such as subsidised bus services.

“However, the government has made clear that it will make further substantial cuts to council budgets over the coming years.

“This will hit low income families, young people in education and employment along with the elderly just going about their daily lives to the doctors or shops.

“We are in an impossible situation with our funding being cut to support bus services that local people desperately need.”

Click here for the online Colne petition and comments can be made to the county council here.