Pensioner campaigns against bus cuts

A PENSIONER is campaigning against bus service cuts that have left him isolated in Carrbrook village centre.

Cllr Adrian Pearce, left, with Frank Butler

Frank Butler, 81, was unhappy the 343 service runs by Stotts to Hyde or Mossley no longer runs after 6.30pm Monday to Saturday and does not operate on a Sunday.

He was pressing for the 340 bus services, that operates along Huddersfield Road by First Bus only after 6.30pm and on Sunday, be diverted through f the village.

However, there has been a new blow as from April the 340 service is to be removed altogether on Saturday evenings and Sundays.

It leaves Carrbrook with only the 348 Ashton to Carrbrook service in the evenings and on Sunday which means travelling into Ashton to get connections to Hyde or Mossley which will greatly increase journey times.

Cllr Adrian Pearce, who has been lobbying for improved bus services, said: “Apparently, no bus operator could be found to run the service after the contract expired.

“It means that the only service from Carrbrook will run to Stalybridge and Ashton. Obviously, this is like death by a thousand cuts to the bus service.”

Frank, a retired manager’s chauffeur at the Calico Printers Association, Carrbrook, said: “This is more bad news.

“It means if you want to go out in the evening or on Sunday you have to go by taxi or by foot, something hard for me as I am 81 years of age.

“I have friends in Heyrod and Blackrock who also have no buses after tea time. They have to walk to either Stalybridge or Mossley.”

Frank was critical of Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, adding: “When he came into office, he said he was going to improve the bus services, but he has done b***** all.”

Cllr Pearce said: “This is the latest of a series of cuts to bus services across Tameside which have affected people trying to get to work or back from school or even, heaven forbid, socialising with friends or relatives.

“Changes to bus patterns in Ridge Hill and the reduction in evening services in Heyrod have had the same effect, preventing elderly people or those without their own transport from carrying out simple tasks.

“It is the culmination of two Government policies: first privatising the buses and allowing private companies to run them for profit rather than providing a service to local communities and, second, slashing budgets for local councils, meaning that Tameside can no longer afford to subsidise local services.”

Cllr Pearce added one of the worst effects of these cuts is to isolate the older people living alone.

He continued: “Loneliness is one of the major hidden blights on modern life. Cutting people off from their friends or the services they need by reducing local bus services is only adding to this problem.

“That is why, as a first step, I will be campaigning with local residents to restore the evening and Sunday service to Mossley.

“Secondly, I will be contacting Andy Burnham to offer my full support to the proposed mayoral bus reforms which will allow bus routes to be planned with local communities to benefit local residents, rather than being at the mercy of the bus companies who have been chopping and changing routes according to themselves and their need to make a profit.

“For anyone who cares about bus services, I would urge them write to the mayor or contact me directly by email and I will forward their views.”

Transport for Greater Manchester explained the majority of Greater Manchester’s bus services are run by commercial operators who are free to decide routes, timetables and set fare levels.

Service 340 is a TfGM-subsidised service that currently provides an hourly Monday to Saturday evening and Sunday daytime service between Oldham and Hyde, serving areas that during the daytime are provided by services 81A and 343.

TfGM issued tenders to renew the contract, which expires in April, but no affordable options were returned.

A recommendation was subsequently made to withdraw the service, which was approved by members of a Transport for Greater Manchester sub-committee on January 18.

Service 348 will continue to provide an evening service from Carrbrook to Stalybridge and Ashton.
Alison Chew, TfGM’s interim head of bus services, said: “We work hard to maintain vital transport links at times of the day and in areas where there is a social need and where no commercial service runs.

“We attempted to renew the contract for the 340 service, but unfortunately due to the high cost per passenger and the proximity of similar services to the route, a decision was made to withdraw it.

“It is not a decision that has been taken lightly. However we strive to strike the right balance with the resources available to us, endeavoring to ensure vital transport links are maintained whilst also making sure they provide value to the taxpayer and are delivered in the most cost effective way.”

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