Local residents are shocked and concerned to learn that a 'vital' bus service which currently runs between Wilmslow, Handforth and Stockport is being axed.
The Stagecoach 378 service will no longer operate in Cheshire East from April 23rd but will terminate at Grove Lane on the Stockport border, instead of travelling on to stop at Ollerton Road and The Green in Handforth before proceeding to Benson Walk, Holly Bank Road, Lacey Green and Bank Square.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach Manchester said: "Falling passenger numbers on the 378 service means it has become no longer sustainable for us to continue to run this service on the section of the route between Grove Lane, Stockport and Wilmslow. We apologise to our customers who are affected by this change. We have provided information to Cheshire Est Council who will be evaluating whether they can support a replacement service on this section of the route."
Councillor Barry Burkhill said "This service provides a lifeline for the elderly of these estates and without it our Cheshire East Residents would be isolated and vulnerable. The service is also important for residents who do not drive or prefer not to, to travel to and from their place of work. Everything possible should be done to keep bus services alive for both social and environmental reasons, particularly this one which covers a large area of the north of our Borough."
He added "The question has to be asked why it is to run within Stockport and not Cheshire East? I hope that the Leadership of Cheshire East Council will intervene forcefully in this situation so that our residents will continue to have this 378 bus service in the future."
A Cheshire East Council spokesman said: "Cheshire East Council has been informed by Stagecoach that they intend to cease operating the Grove Lane to Wilmslow section of their commercially operated 378 bus service within the borough from April 23, 2017.
"The Council is currently gathering information on the service and will issue a further statement shortly.
"Cheshire East provides supported services where there are major gaps in commercial bus networks across the borough.
"Currently, there are severe pressures on the limited resources available for local bus support. The Council will carefully consider the impact of the cessation of this service in accordance with the Council's policies on local bus support.
"This service was last part-subsidised by Cheshire East Council in 2012 for the evening service only."
Local residents were only made aware that this service is being terminated when Cynthia Samson, Chairman of Handforth Parish Council and Spath Lane Residents Association, contacted Cheshire East to chase up some bus stop improvements which were planned on Spath Lane. She was then told they weren't being done because the bus was being cancelled from 23rd April.
Janet Taylor has set up a petition to try 'Keep the vital 378 bus route to Wilmslow' which has collected 421 signatures so far.
Janet told wilmslow.co.uk "The reaction locally to the cancellation of the 378 bus route through Handforth to Wilmslow has been met with shock, worry and anger. Many people use this bus to get to work, school or college, one young resident from Stockport fears he will have to give up his job in Handforth if this goes ahead.
"As this bus passes through Spath Lane, Colshaw Farm and Lacey Green estates, it is a lifeline for many of the elderly and infirm as it means they can travel locally for shopping, banking, socialising etc even if they aren't able to walk very far. Removal of this bus service will leave these elderly residents housebound, Cheshire East simply cannot put vulnerable residents in this impossible situation. When you consider there is no disabled or buggy access to Handforth station platforms, it leaves this village and it's residents isolated."
In addition to the online petition, hard copies have been placed in various shops in Handforth and further copies will be placed in public buildings and elderly residencies.
Janet added "We will also be placing notices on the bus stops as neither Cheshire East nor Stagecoach have deemed this necessary even tho the termination of the bus service is little over a month away.
"It is essential that this information gets put to the wider Wilmslow community as I'm sure many people will not yet know about the situation.
"I believe providing funding for free bus passes for all available services is a statutory commitment, not an optional choice for Cheshire East."
The 378 bus service between Stockport, Handforth and Wilmslow was previously subsidised by Cheshire East Council at a cost of £23,156 per annum. However in 2012 it was amongst a list of services identified as 'low priority' and recommended for withdrawal of support.
The decision to stop subsidising the 378 service was taken by Cabinet at their meeting on 15th October 2012. At the time they approved a proposal to reduce or withdraw funding subsidies for bus services supported by Cheshire East Council, resulting in a saving of £750,000 per annum.
Photo credit Martin Vincent Photography.