Calls to save bus routes from axe

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A campaign to try and prevent the borough’s bus services being slashed is being stepped up.

Hundreds of people have added their signatures to a petition set up by Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle.

Elderly residents have called on Stagecoach and Lancashire County Council to re-think their plans.

The petition was set up a couple of weeks ago in after Stagecoach announced a scaled-down timetable, especially in rural areas, saying the shake-up was due to a need to improve reliability and making the network more cost effective.

Mr Hoyle said: “This shows the strength of feeling about the reduction in bus services throughout the Chorley area. I believe the proposed cuts are too severe and will leave elderly people in particular at a major disadvantage as they are reliant on the buses to get out.

“I want to see the county council and Stagecoach review the current proposals.”

Under the proposed new timetables, two routes - the number four Great Knowley bus and number 16 Chorley to Euxton service - will be scrapped altogether.

The number 10 service to Buckshaw Village, 11 to Chorley hospital, 18 to Eaves Green, 109 between Leyland and Preston, 125/126 to Bolton and

X60/X61 to Blackpool will all have revised routes and timetables, including dropping services from twice an hour to once and cutting out several rural stretches which the bus company says are not used enough.

For many elderly people living on rural routes the changes will make it more difficult for them to travel into Chorley or visit family and friends.

Coun Ralph Snape, whose Chorley North West ward lies on the 18 route, one of those facing alterations, said: “Unless you use the bus you don’t realise what the effect will be on elderly and disabled people.

“Senior citizens can only start using the bus at 9.30am, before that they have to pay, so the changes are really hitting the senior citizen more than anything, as everybody going to work will still get the half-hour buses at peak times.

“I appreciate the fact that about three o’clock in the afternoon the bus is empty, but why can’t they have services every half hour at busy times and fewer at other times? ”

A Stagecoach spokesman said: “Stagecoach will be making a number of changes to services in the Chorley and South Ribble areas, with effect from Sunday September 4.

“The changes are necessary to make the network more reliable and cost-effective.”

Unprofitable routes which no private operator wants to run can be taken on and subsidised by the council’s Passenger Transport Executive in order to provide a social and community service.

However, Lancashire County Council cut around £800,000 from its bus budget, including dropping many subsidised routes entirely, as part of an overall budget cut of £179 million earlier this year. Furthermore, as Stagecoach are only altering their routes rather than cutting services entirely, subsidising the routes affected is unlikely to be an option.

Mike Kirby, director of transportation and strategic highways at Lancashire County Council, said: “Since the bus services being withdrawn or altered are operated by Stagecoach on a commercial basis, the county council is not in a position to influence this decision. The county council is currently evaluating the impact of the revisions proposed by Stagecoach.”

County Councillor Malcolm Barron, lead member for buses, said: “People have been very concerned at the potential withdrawal of sections of the number 18 service which is run by Stagecoach on a commercial basis.”