BUS services in Stalybridge North council ward have declined to an “unacceptable” level.
That is the conclusion of ward councillors who conducted their own investigations.Adrian Pearce, Jan Jackson and Sam Gosling have presented their findings to the consultation about a proposed bus franchising scheme for Greater Manchester.
The councillors provided one of more than 8,000 responses as people and organisations across Greater Manchester and beyond the chance to comment and share their views on the proposals before the consultation ended on January 8.
The responses to the consultation are now being analysed by an independent market research agency Ipsos MORI. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) will then publish a report on the consultation responses before Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham decides whether to implement the proposed franchising scheme. It is expected this decision will be made in March.
Cllr Pearce said: “We would like to thank all those people who attended meetings to give us their views, signed petitions, and got in touch with their local councillors over the past year.
“We held meetings in Ridge Hill (St George’s and the Big Local), Heyrod and have been in conversation with people in Carrbrook.
“The general view was that the bus service had declined to an unacceptable state making it difficult for people without transport to carry on their everyday lives. We tried to reflect this in our response.”
The councillors found most people want services that are reliable, affordable and not subject to constant route changes.
The public wanted an end to the lottery of routes and services being determined by a private operator, changes made without prior notice, or consultation with local communities.
Most people expressed the wish that this ad hoc system be replaced by a network of planned routes and services which enable local people to get to work, school or college on time, visit the doctor or hospital, or socialise with friends.
For older people, those people with disabilities and young people without access to private transport, this is crucial, an essential part of preventing people becoming isolated, earning a living or taking advantage of education or training opportunities.
The councillors added most people want one body to be able to set priorities for a future bus service network, plan and amend routes, set service levels, control fares and where necessary spend public money to support the bus network.
The unplanned reductions in routes and services has affected all of Greater Manchester but has had a disproportionate impact upon poorer communities and isolated villages. This has been the case in Ridge Hill and the villages of Heyrod, Millbrook and Carrbrook.
The councillors pointed to the 387 and 389 bus routes, which cover Ridge Hill, being shortened and services reduced.
They found some bus stops have been taken out of use— for instance Church Walk and St. George’s Street. This has meant older people having to walk up steep inclines to use bus services for their weekly shop and effectively cutting half of the estates off from a bus route.
Reductions to the 387 service have meant that people have not been able to get to Tameside Hospital for appointments without using taxis and incurring additional expense. Other people have been regularly delayed getting to work or unable to make connections with other bus services to other parts of Greater Manchester.
They added reductions to evening and weekend services have left Heyrod isolated after 6.30pm and resident in Carrbrook without a service to Mossley at weekends.
As part of the Town Challenge consultation, people in Stalybridge wanted to see the integration of transport facilities, so that people can interchange easily between bus, rail and tram; at the same time, releasing underused facilities to encourage regeneration. The creation of one body would assist this process.
In Stalybridge, this would mean plans for bus and Metrolink facilities being focused around the railway station encouraging greater use of public transport, but also enabling the land occupied by the bus station, currently underused and considered an eyesore in the town, to be released as part of the wider regeneration objectives identified as crucial for the town’s future.