A controversial change to a bus route through a Preston estate has been branded “scandalous” by a leading councillor,
Campaigners says the disabled and elderly have been left stranded by a local bus company’s decision to change the route of the former Number 44 service through Ingol.
Now County Coun Bill Winlow, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Lancashire County Council and a councillor for Preston West, is calling for commercial bus companies to dig into their pockets and subsidise less profitable but essential routes.
He also says it is time to allow city or county councils regulate and run their own services.
Coun Winlow spoke out about the loss of the number 44 bus route which went through his ward. It has been re-numbered as route 43 and no longer takes in the southern/Barry Avenue area of Ingol. It comes after Preston Bus axed its Orbital service, which had served the neighbouring Cottam area. He said: “This area is in the 10 per cent most deprived parts of the UK. Rotala/Preston Bus is taking away a bus service from the area. I think it’s a scandalous way for a bus company to run. We’ve a lot of elderly in the area, quite a number of disabled and they are all being made to walk hundreds of yards for a bus. It’s an absolute social scandal that they are allowed to get away with it. What Rotata has done is despicable for an area with big social deprivation.”
Coun Winlow added: “I think bus companies should be under local control - we should be allowed to reregulate the buses and run our own bus services as city or county councils.”
Members of the Ingol Community Association have also raised concerns.
Chairman Bill McGrath said there are disabled residents who relied on the bus: “These people are really, really going to be struggling. A lot try to get out every day of the week. It’s going to change their lifestyle.”
Association vice-chairman Gordon Wang said the bus now goes round the top end of the estate only. He is seeking a meeting with Preston Bus to ask if it can reinstate one service an hour.
The changes came into effect on Monday.
John Asquith, regional operations manager for Preston Bus parent company Rotala, said the service had been altered to ensure Cottam residents retained a direct service to Preston, following the withdrawal of part of the former Orbital bus route.
He said: “To extend that route to Cottam means we have had to tweak the route to enable the journey to achieve a turnaround of an hour. It’s important a service is punctual and reliable.”
He said in the future, when the Brickworks development at Cottam had progressed, there might be an opportunity to review the service and possibly reinstate the route. He said: “We would never say never. You just have to deal with the conditions at the time. If we can tweak the service in future and it is possible to serve Creswell, Dunbar and Barry Avenue we will do so.”
Mr Asquith added that to travel further into the estate would add six to eight minutes to the round trip from Cottam to Preston and back to Cottam.