Councillors pledge to try and replace chopped bus services

Friday 18th March 2022 12:00 pm
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Stagecoach bus 2022 (Forest Review )

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COUNCILLORS have agreed to work together to try and find a means of replacing bus services axed between Ross-on-Wye, Newent and Ledbury.

People had their say at a public online meeting last Wednesday (March 9) about Stagecoach’s removal of the 132 service from Gloucester to Ledbury via Newent, and the reduction of its 32 service between Newent and Ross, which will only operate a school and shopper link.

Stagecoach says the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly reduced the number of people using these routes, with buses north and west of Newent running at a total loss of £200,000 a year.

But many residents say they are devastated by the cuts and villages such as Dymock have lost their regular connection to Newent and Ledbury.

The axing of services prompted John Kyrle pupils Violet Hill and Bryce Elwine to launch a petition to save the services, which has raised more than 1,360 signatures.

Ledbury town councillors convened last week’s meeting with councillors and residents from Herefordshire and Gloucestershire to discuss a way forward.

James O’Neill, a Stagecoach representative, explained how the company’s revenue had been affected and explained that they could not run the service at a loss.

But resident Sarah-Jane Arbury said there was still a need for a reliable and regular bus service from Ledbury to Newent.

“The 132 provided a vital way for people who don’t or can’t drive to get to Gloucester railway station,” she said.

And fellow resident Mel Bayliss said the people of Dymock who do not drive are “literally stuck”.

Councillor John Harrington (Ind, Hampton), Herefordshire Council’s infrastructure and transport cabinet member, said his local authority did not have the money to subsidise the route.

He said: “By subsidising this route, we would lose other routes and that’s the continual quandary we are in. We are trying to shake the Government for more funding to run an effective bus service.

“But there are sensible steps forward and I think the point of seeing what parish councils can offer is vital. That’s how we were able to keep a service going in the north of Herefordshire.”

Gloucestershire County Councillor Gill Moseley (Lib Dem, Newent) said it was essential that the county councils work together and an interim service is needed.

She said: “I don’t think this service is sustainable from town and parish councils. We need the transport authorities to find the funds to do something.“

Herefordshire and Ross Town councillor Louis Stark (Lib Dem) said the town councils of the three market towns should work together to find a better way forward to provide a bus link.

And Ledbury deputy mayor Phillip Howells (LD) suggested setting up a regular forum to come up with ideas to persuade Herefordshire and Gloucestershire for some financial help to fund a bus service.

This was agreed and future meetings are expected to take place in the coming weeks.

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