COMMUTERS have accused transport bosses of ‘wrecking the North Kirklees bus service’ with recent timetable changes.
Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin organised a public meeting last Friday with officials from bus company Arriva and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), after dozens of her constituents complained about changes in which a number of bus routes were altered or cut.
Among the issues raised by more than 100 local bus users to Dwayne Wells, Arriva’s head of commercial for Yorkshire, and Neal Wallacew, head of transport operations for WYCA, were students struggling to get to school on time, residents being ‘cut off’ from Dewsbury hospital, and the removal of the 253 service which served Birkenshaw, Cleckheaton, Liversedge, Mirfield and Dewsbury.
Arriva said some of the services were cut or changed due to “commercial viability”.
One woman who regularly used the now-defunct 253 service said the company had “wrecked the North Kirklees bus service”.
A pensioner who relied on the 221 which linked Mirfield and Heckmondwike to Leeds said: “It was a smashing bus – now you’ve slammed the door in my face. I’m 95 years old and maybe I shouldn’t go out any more, that’s how you made me feel.”
Ms Brabin said: “I’m grateful to Arriva and WYCA for agreeing to the meeting and I hope they now understand just how much these changes are affecting people’s lives.
“Some of the contributions on the night were absolutely heartbreaking and it really laid bare just how important buses are to so many in our community.
“It’s crucial that those who run our public transport listen to the concerns of the people who rely on the services and now, having witnessed the strength of opposition, the onus is very much on them to take this feedback on board.
“I will continue to press Arriva to reconsider some of these changes and fight for more central government funding for our buses after almost a decade of cuts.”
Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said Arriva’s service changes have affected workers, students, the elderly and shoppers.
He said: “It may be that at certain times of the day, a bus service is not completely viable. If that is the case, have a conversation about when you stop it. They can be lifelines for employment and education.
“But in a deregulated bus industry, operators don’t have to give a period of notice to stop or change a bus service. Plus, WYCA is a voluntary partnership. It’s weak. It’s not a fair partnership, so the bus companies will do what they want to do.”
Coun Bolt also has concerns over the increased use of Heckmondwike’s bus hub as a key interchange in the new timetable, citing a lack of passenger facilities at the town centre site.
As well as timetabling issues, concerns were raised about the public consultation – which took place last October – with many commuters saying they didn’t feel they were given enough opportunity to take part.
Mr Wells said: “We have made several changes to our bus network in North Kirklees following extensive consultation with hundreds of our customers.
“Improvements include running popular services more often, making journeys quicker and more reliable, and introducing new links.
“Overall we have three more buses on the road today compared to before the changes, as well as several new drivers.
“The new network is designed to grow bus usage in the area but we do recognise that a small number of our customers will lose a direct link to their ultimate destination.
“Connections are still available by interchanging at a bus station or hub and we continue to engage with our customers to support journey planning by promoting the different options available.”
Asked directly if it would reconsider its schedule changes, and specifically the 253, Arriva did not respond.
They did agree to a follow-up meeting to report back on the issues raised.