Talks on changes to buses – but axing of 253 will stay

Talks on changes to buses – but axing of 253 will stay
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

TRANSPORT bosses have revealed they are working with bus chiefs to address timetable changes that critics say have wrecked the bus network in North Kirklees.

But they have warned that one contentious decision will not be altered – the withdrawal of the 253 service which covers Dewsbury, Mirfield, Roberttown, Hightown, Cleckheaton, Gomersal and Bradford.

Bus company Arriva said it cut the 253 and made other changes to focus on routes “with greater commercial potential”.

A spokesman for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), which works in conjunction with bus companies and subsidises some services, said: “The initial proposals resulted in some communities losing their bus service.

“The Combined Authority invited tenders to fill those gaps and have awarded Arriva a contract to do so at a marginal cost, partly offset by savings in evening service contracts with Arriva arising from the company’s service changes.”

He added: “The Combined Authority is unable to provide a replacement of service 253.”

At a meeting of WYCA’s Transport Committee, Dave Pearson, Director, Transport Services, said the authority had “taken steps” with Arriva to ensure that areas previously serviced by the 253 were covered.

A suggestion by Kirklees councillor Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) to subsidise a commercial service rather than fund a tendered service to support schoolchildren and older students, was defeated by a 5-3 vote.

He said: “It needs to be reviewed before we turn it down.”

Chair of the committee, Leeds councillor Kim Groves,  commented: “I do feel from the public’s point of view that this has not been handled well by the operators. We are doing everything we can to resolve it. It’s not the type of situation we like to have as we’re entering into a partnership.”

She added that budget cuts prevented WYCA from offering subsidies as it had in the past.

Coun Bolt, who sits on Kirklees Council and Mirfield Town Council, said the changes pointed to a wider problem around WYCA and its partnership with bus companies.

“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,” he said.

He also questioned why WYCA was giving an estimated £3m in subsidies to bus operators to clean up exhaust emissions when services were being axed.

“The authority is subsiding services to make them cleaner but it’s not being reciprocated by the bus companies running services when and where people need them.”

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