Campaign for better buses stepped up

THE campaign for better bus services in Hyde and its surrounding areas has been stepped up in recent weeks.

It comes in the wake of further cuts to local services which had previously been slashed, making bus travel in Tameside increasingly difficult.Local campaigners, who are planning to hold public meetings, have the backing of the independently funded lobby group Better Buses for Greater Manchester and local MPs.

And one passenger, Sarah Hampton, has collected 1,000 signatures on a petition against cuts to the 389 service.

Councillor Jacqueline Owen, who represents Longdendale ward, is a regular bus user so has personally witnessed the issues and regularly hears the grumbles of other passengers as they have been late for work, missed hospital appointments and become trapped at home as a result or services being cut.

Cllr Owen, who has been co-ordinating local protests, believes poor bus services are impacting the whole community, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

She said: “A lot of work and money has been invested into projects to combat social isolation. This will be hampered by a lack of a regular and reliable bus service.

“The knock-on of this will be more pressure on medical services and the budgets of the NHS, as evidence shows that people who are active and engaged in their communities have better health and well-being.“The traders in Hyde and Stalybridge have commented about the decline in footfall, surely this will only increase if there are poor transport links.”

Hyde’s Cllr Phil Fitzpatrick, who represents Newton, is heavily involved with Hyde’s Grafton Centre, added: “If bus services are cut, older people will become more and more isolated.

“When you are isolated you get ill which in turn results in more ambulances needed and hospital beds blocked. It is the unseen cost.

“People are encouraged to use public transport and not their cars and yet it is being taken away.”

Cllr Fitzpatrick added loneliness is not recognised as an illness but at the Grafton Centre defeating that is their ethos.

“We have people coming to us and we make a difference to their lives. We can’t make a difference if they can’t get to us.”

Pascale Robinson, from Better Buses for Greater Manchester, said the organisation is calling for buses in Greater Manchester to return to public ownership, something Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is also advocating.

Mr Burnham is looking to create a model for Greater Manchester similar to London.

Pascale said: “We deserve a lot more money to be spent on public transport with Greater Manchester bus services reduce and some weekend services completely withdrawn.“Eight million bus miles have been lost in Greater Manchester since 2010. Bus fares went up 6.7 per cent in January and also increased the year before.

“Passengers are being asked to pay more for a worse service which is unacceptable.”

Cllr Owen detailed issues with local bus services:

• 397 – Hyde to Hollingworth removed some time ago. Residents need to get to Hyde for things such as the bank, opticians, Union Street medical centre where chiropody and dental services are based, their MP etc. The postal address is Hollingworth, Hyde – yet they can’t get there on a bus.

The solution is to extend the 201 from the end of John Kennedy Road, Hattersley, to the turning circle at Longdendale High school at the very least.

• 236 – Service to be withdrawn on Sundays leaving the 237 as the only bus in and out of Hollingworth.

• 389 – Current route from Ashton to Hyde via Ridge Hill and Yew Tree Estates to be reduced to a circular route between Ashton and Dukinfield. This will have a massive impact on Newton and Hyde as this is the only bus direct to Tameside Hospital and Ashton Sixth Form College.

The 389 currently runs two buses each hour. Passengers wanting to go to Stalybridge from Hyde will have to now use the 343 which is only one bus per hour.

To get to Hyde will now involve walking to The Cheshire Cheese Junction or Talbot Road from the Lodge Lane area, not helpful for older people or those with mobility issues.

To get to Ashton will mean a lengthy walk to Talbot Road or Findel. Only one of the bus stops has a shelter and seating, not helpful for older people or those with mobility issues.

Cllr Owen also raised the cost of public transport. She said the cost of subsidised passes for teens/freedom passes is not much use if there is no bus to use it on.

Cllr Owen explained older people’s passes can be exchanged for taxi vouchers – £120 per annum with a fee of £30 so that is effectively £90 pa.

The lowest single adult bus fare £2.40 and all-day ticket £4.60.

Cllr Owen said: “Working on three return journeys each week for banking, shopping, exercise classes, for example, costs £13.80, which adds up to more than £700 a year without hospital visits or leisure activities so £90 of vouchers doesn’t come anywhere close.

“How can people be expected to travel on public transport when it is so unreliable, expensive and inaccessible? How does this fit with the green agenda?”

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