Passengers say Melton bus service changes will impact badly on elderly and students

Council officials have been accused of stranding elderly people in rural areas and consigning students to late journeys home as a result of changes they have made to six bus services in the Melton area.

By Nick Rennie
Thursday, 14th November 2019, 11:29 am
A Centrebus bus picks up passengers in St Mary's Way, Melton EMN-191113-125521001
A Centrebus bus picks up passengers in St Mary's Way, Melton EMN-191113-125521001

Residents made their feelings known on Tuesday at an emotive meeting called by Leicestershire County Council to discuss cuts it is having to make to subsidise bus routes operated by Centrebus.

The civic suite at Melton Borough Council was packed to hear details of how several services have barely anyone travelling on them and that the 113 bus between Melton and Oakham costs County Hall £13 per passenger every time it runs.

Demand Response Transport (DRT) will be introduced for some villages whereby residents can pre-book taxis on a limited number of days of the week to replace the buses they will lose.

People in rural areas are also being encouraged to set up car sharing, social car or community minibus schemes to help each other to travel in the absence of a bus.

One of the changes is to combine the poorly used 113 service with the much more popular 100, which runs between Melton and Leicester, north of the A607. It will mean Gaddesby is no longer served with villagers instead having to use the new DRT scheme.

One irate woman told the meeting: “I can’t for the life of me understand why you are leaving Gaddesby out because it is only a mile up the road on this new route and a lot of people in the village use the current bus.

“You are leaving the elderly and infirm isolated and I think it’s disgraceful.”

Some residents said they would happily pay, rather than use their free senior citizens’ bus passes, if it meant being able to keep their bus services.

And another older woman told the meeting elderly people would not want to join a social car scheme because they trusted the bus drivers they used and would feel less safe with strangers driving them.

Another of the changes is the amalgamation of the 23 (Melton - Nether Broughton), 24 (Melton - Bottesford/Bingham) and the 25 (Melton - Stathern).

Two new services will be created - one running between Melton and Bottesford and the other between Melton and Stathern.

One of the consequences is that students at the town’s Melton Vale Sixth Form College who live in the Vale of Belvoir will have to wait around until 6pm to get home. The bus before that will leave at 3.15pm which is before the college day ends.

An angry parent at the meeting said: “I’m the mother of a year 12 student at MV16 and he will now have to leave school early or wait and not get home to Barkestone until 7pm.”

Another MV16 parent added: “The gap is too big between buses. These are kids who don’t drive so they rely on the buses. I can’t pick my daughter up because I work.”

MV16 said after the meeting it was aware of the issue concerning parents and it would be talking to the county council about the need for a more appropriate bus service.

The less frequent buses on the new combined services serving the Vale of Belvoir villages also mean patients at Long Clawson surgery will have to hang around for two hours waiting for a bus home, one resident pointed out at the meeting.

The other major change will see the 128 service, which travels between Melton and Leicester south of the A607, being axed because of poor usage and replaced with a DRT option.

County Hall has to make £75million worth of savings in its budget over the next four years. The bus cuts will see £400,000 saved on services across the county.

The council currently subsidises 11 bus routes across the Melton area.

Lee Quincey, team manager for safe and sustainable travel at County Hall, told the meeting: “We recognise we are not going to meet every journey arrangement for every resident.

“But we are trying to be innovative by combining routes and changing the frequency of services to make the savings we need to make.”

Melton-based county councillor Alan Pearson, who is chair of the environment and transport overview and scrutiny committee, told the Melton Times after the meeting: “The DRT schemes do work where we have tried them so residents shouldn’t be worried about using them.

“They are operated by taxi drivers and they are more likely to drop passengers closer to their homes than buses would.

“It would be great to save all of our bus services but, sadly, the figures show that they are not being used enough.”

The newly configured bus services will start from December 21 this year.

The county council say no changes will be made to the other bus services it subsidises across the Melton area - the 55, 56, 14, 15 and 8.