Thousands of city residents have been “abandoned” following the shock axe of a vital bus service, it has been claimed.
Preston Bus has decided to scrap part of the No 14 route which served the Longsands area of Fulwood on Monday, meaning people are struggling to get to the city centre, to school, to the Royal Preston Hopsital, or even to do their supermarket shop.
Rotala, the company behind Preston Bus, claimed the route was “no longer sustainable”, due to “a constant decline in patronage”, and Lancashire County Council said there was nothing it could do to, with other operators unwilling to take on the route.
Now more than four hundred people have signed a petition calling on Rotala to reverse the decision, with a college principal and the area’s MP also throwing their weight behind concerns.
Linda Whyborn, who started the petition, said: “We are the only area of Preston which is deprived of a bus service.
“Why us? Why here?
“We pay top dollar in council tax up here and so surely we are entitled to a bus service.
“There are around 3,500 people living up here and how can a service not be viable if it is run properly?
“A lot of people still don’t know about this. There are eight bus stops on Longsands Lane and yet there is only a notice up in one of them.
“It’s just not fair and we are determined to keep fighting until we get our service restored.”
Another angry resident is Helen Hull, of Longsands Lane, whose 15-year-old son was stranded at the bus stop on his first day back at Our Ladies RC High School in Fulwood this week.
Mrs Hull said: “It has been announced very minimally and very quickly over the summer holidays, leaving us without a service to get children to school, or college.
“We can’t get into the city centre. We can’t get to RPH.
“It is the young and the elderly who have been hardest hit by this.
“They clearly think that, because this is a reasonably affluent area, everyone has a car and we don’t need buses.
“We that is not the case for many people like schoolchildren, college students and the elderly who rely on a bus service to get about.
“They gave very little warning of this happening and they didn’t even put notices up on bus stops, meaning people were left standing there on Monday and Tuesday oblivious to the situation and waiting for buses which never came.
“We pay amongst the highest council tax in Preston, yet we are the only area of the city now which doesn’t have a bus service.
“I think we have been abandoned.
And the council aren’t willing to do anything to help. They say it’s a private issue between us and Rotala.”
Denise Fletcher said her 16-year-old son had a 30 minute walk in the rain to Gamull to get the No 6 bus to Cardinal Newman College.
She said: “By the time he got back home he was completely frazzled.
“I’m not sure that is conducive to studying.
“I also bumped into two elderly gentlemen waiting at a bus stop who had no idea about the buses not coming. Terrible. Unprofessional.”
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “This service is run on a commercial basis by Preston Rotala Bus and the decision to change the route has been made by the operator.
“We have made enquiries with other local bus service providers, unfortunately none are prepared to provide a service.”
Rotala was unavailable for comment when approached by the Lancashire Post.
An official statement on their website says: “Following a commercial review of all our services, Preston Bus regrettably announces that from 3rdSeptember 2018, service 14 will terminate at Holme Slack, Lily Grove and will no longer serve the Ronaldsway and Longsands area.
“Unfortunately, due to a constant decline in patronage the extended service through Ronaldsway to Longsands service is no longer sustainable.
“Whilst it is little comfort to those affected, this decision has not been taken lightly but is necessary.”
Latest bus prices
This is the latest in a series of changes affecting bus passengers in Preston.
Last month it was announced that daily, weekly and monthly fares would see a hike in prices under a fare revision.
Adult single fare prices for Preston Bus journeys went up by 10p to £1.80 and £2. However, the minimum adult single fare is remaining the same at £1.50.
Meanwhile, the child single flat fare was also increased by 10p to £1.40.
EasiDay tickets for adults now cost £4, up from £3.90, while the new child fare costs £3.
EasiWeek passes for
adults cost £13, up from £12.50, and child tickets now cost £10.50, up from £10.
Easi28Day passes for adults cost £45, a rise from £44, and fares for children cost £35, up from £34.
Last year a major shakeup of timetables was also announced, with several late night bus services in Preston being cut,
including the midnight and 1am buses on Friday and Saturday between the Bus Station and Farringdon park, and the Bus Station and Asda in Fulwood./
The weekend 10.30pm service from Lune Street to Longton was also cut, with Preston Bus claiming the change was due to “very low ridership”.
MP: ‘I am concerned about those affected’
Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and Preston North, said: “I am incredibly disappointed at Preston Bus’ decision to reduce the route of the number 14 bus, particularly as my constituents have been given very little notice to make alternative arrangements.
“I am very concerned that many people, particularly students and the elderly, have been affected by the withdrawal of the service.
“Several weeks ago I called on the County Council to step in to assist with funding the route and was pleased that the County agreed to meet half of the costs associated with running the full service for six months.
“Unfortunately, Preston Bus and its parent company, Rotala, have refused this offer.
“I have made numerous representations to the company encouraging them to take up the assistance from the County Council and asking them to look at other options to enable a bus service to operate in the Longsands area, to no avail so far.
“I am now contacting other bus operators to see if they would consider operating a service in the area.”
‘We have to keep this service running’
Ward Councillor Stuart Greenhalgh said: “Now the No 14 bus has been withdrawn, 3,500 people have been abandoned and it’s just not good enough.
“We have schoolchildren with no bus to get to school.
“And we have people who can’t gbet to hospital for appointments.
“Talks seem tp have reached an impasse. But we need to get back round the table and talk some more.
“We have to keep this service running.
“It’s vital for the people of the Longsands Lane area.”
‘We should be part of route 23’
Linda Whyborn, who began the petition to reinstate the service, claims the route the bus took might have affected patronage.
She said: “This is not a small community around here, they (Rotala) need to think of all the capital they could tap into.
“In my opinion, we should never have been part of the No 14 service anyway, it literally goes all the way around the houses.
“We should have been part of the 23 route or an extended No 6. It needs to be an attractive route for people.”
In a reply to campaigners and the Lancashire Post, John Asquith, operations manager for Preston Bus said extending service 6 was not an option.
He said: “The cheapest solution is for service 14 to be extended from Holme Slack. An ‘option’ we put forward within our tender bid to LCC was to also extend the 14 to Asda to connect with service 23 - because it would have time to do this, but would cost additional mileage related cost.
“The service is not commercially viable and requires some form of subsidy.
“Whist our ‘closed’ tender bid was the lowest and was reduced further when requested, the monies offered (50 per cent reduction) would not cover our operating costs.”
Colleges are concerned
Parents have raised concerns about the impact the cut will have on their school and college-aged children.
Already students have been left stranded at unserviced bus stops and worries have arisen about children walking long distances on their own.
Cardinal Newman College Principal Burnham has been made aware of the situation and will be acting on concerns.
He said: “The college is concerned about the changes to the Number 14 bus service, and the impact this will have on our students.
“As a result of this the Principal will be writing to LCC to express these concerns.”