As further cuts loom Council asks why so few choose to take a bus

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Wilmslow Town Council, working with neighbouring councils, is exploring options to save a local bus service but they need to hear the views of residents to ensure their proposals meet their requirements.

Cheshire East Council has recently carried out a review of their subsidised bus services in order to save more than £1.5m - reducing the annual supported bus service budget from £3.7m to £2.1m.

Their proposals include withdrawing the subsidy for the 200 bus from Wilmslow to Manchester Airport, which passes through Styal, and reducing the 88 Knutsford to Wilmslow to Altrincham bus from a half hourly to an hourly service,

Additionally the new D&G 378 service which launched in April - running from Wilmslow's Bank Square, through Lacey Green and Handforth to Handforth Dean Retail Park - is being withdrawn on 14th July as not enough passengers are using it to cover the costs.

Speaking about the proposal to cut the 200 service, Cllr Martin Watkins said "Cheshire East's argument is that there are alternatives to this services namely the 378 bus service and rail journeys. The 378 service is about to be withdrawn (on 14th July) and rail services stop at Styal only twice a day. This means that residents of Styal village, visitors to Quarry Bank, staff, visitors and discharged personnel from Styal Prison and all residents of Lacey Green will have no bus service whatsoever."

He added "For the residents of Spath Lane, Handforth the withdrawal of the 378 service means they have to rely solely on the 130 bus route which crosses the top of the estate which is particularly difficult if you are disabled. This service has recently been reduced to an hourly service, does not give access to Wilmslow and Crewe bound rail services at Handforth due to the lack of disabled access nor does it serve Wilmslow station. Residents of Colshaw Farm have already seen a reduction to the Manchester bound 130 service to once an hour either way. Since Stagecoach withdraw their 378 bus service (which D&G did not replicate) which also served Colshaw, bus services have already been reduced by more than 50%.

"Many residents of Colshaw Farm are registered with Handforth doctors. A bus trip to these practises now involves a minimum of a 3 hour journey for what is a distance of 3 miles."

In an attempt to find a solution to the proposed cuts, members of Wilmslow Town Council have met with representatives of Handforth, Styal and Alderley Edge parish councils. One of the options they have been exploring is circular routes which take in as many rail stations, doctors surgeries, schools, shopping centres and employment hubs - which could potentially be subsidised by the support of local businesses who would benefit from it.

Cllr Watkins added "We are of the opinion that bus routes need to meet the needs of the communities who do not necessarily want to travel to Knutsford snd beyond by bus nor to Cheadle or Manchester. We also believe there is a need for very short journeys, almost hop on, hop off.

"We are well used to the saying 'use it or lose it'. We are also familiar with parking problems around Wilmslow. What we are not familiar with is why many of our residents choose not to use a bus when one is available."

Councillors have agreed to seek the views of members of the public in their wards and report back at the July meeting when they will put together a response to Cheshire East Council's proposals.

Cheshire East's consultation closes on Wednesday 26th July. There will be a presentation in Wilmslow library from 2pm on July 3rd.

Cllr Martin Watkins said "These need an input from individuals and organisations as well as councils. Considered and well-argued submissions from Councils will carry considerable weight."

Cllr David Pincombe added "Cheshire East actually said that they don't particularly just want people to write in and say we don't want to lose the bus service, if you can give a reason that it's a necessary service for an individual who is going to be house bound or those who have to rely on social services then that's the type of thing we need to be putting into the consultation documents. So when they review they can pick these items up and if there's X number in particular areas that will carry awful lot of weight."

When asked about how many people use the local bus services, Cllr Pincombe replied "I spoke to the D&G Transport Manager when he advising that he was going to cease the 378 route on 14th July and he indicated to me that currently there are only 55 passengers travelling per day on that bus and that does not cover the cost of his drivers."

He added "That service will cost around £70,000 per annum to maintain."

Cllr Martin Watkins said "The cost is really beyond this council and some of the participating council's around here. I would actually have to seriously question whether it is appropriate that we should even begin to consider those sums of money when it is a so poorly supported bus service."

He added "There were 3700 people sign that petition but 3700 people have not supported the 378 bus service and this is the problem. We need to find out why people choose not to use the bus when they could do so and it would reduce the parking problem in Wilmslow."

The consultation runs until Wednesday 26th July and the public can give their views online and on paper-based surveys which are available at libraries.

Tags:
Bus Services, Wilmslow Town Council
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Julie Lowe
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 5:04 pm
Maybe more people would use the bus if they ran to a timetable to suit the users rather than the bus company? The new proposals are ridiculous, are people not supposed to want to travel after 6 pm and at weekends?
James MacDonald
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 5:33 pm
Public transport outside of London has always been poor. We have generations of workers that travel by car due to this. You can't suddenly expect a change in attitudes.
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 5:45 pm
You'll never get passengers on a bus to a retail area totally designed for personal car transport. As far as other services go I despair of Cheshire. Having moved back from Leicestershire I see the contrast. My old village service was every 10 min just like the Wilmslow to Manchester service used to be until 30 years ago. Hourly at night until 11.30pm. Plenty of passengers too. Here in Cheshire East the population has forgotten public transport. Soon it will be too late. No buses and no room on choked roads as a result. Look forward to it.
Ade Whitaker
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 8:00 pm
The solution by the councils and bus companies to dwindling numbers of passengers is to carry on cutting funding even further. As a result timetables get slashed and the buses become an even less attractive to passengers. Buses only really become popular when they run on time, several times an hour (in case you miss one) and at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, those people who rely on buses, like my oldest who goes to college by bus, suffer as a result. For example : the 130 from Bank Square to Cheadle college only runs at 07:14, 08:24 and then 09:41 in the morning rush hour ! Not exactly convenient if one of those buses would make you 10 minutes late so that you have to leave 70 minutes earlier! The service ran twice as many buses until very recently. This is a good example of what is happening to buses generally (except in London where they have made them really attractive via investment). We need similar investment everywhere in the country to make public transport attractive - otherwise the roads will get more and more clogged up with cars and people will spend increasing amounts of time commuting to work, college etc.
Julie Lowe
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 8:20 pm
Maybe more people would use the bus if they ran to a timetable to suit the users rather than the bus company? The new proposals are ridiculous, are people not supposed to want to travel after 6 pm and at weekends?
Malcolm Elliott
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 10:46 pm
To a large degree the solution to this problem has been with us since1885.
I have used it for the past 59 years.
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 21st June 2017 at 11:20 pm
Dead right about the 130. Used to be the 30 (& 29 & 52). Every 10 min from Alderley and every 30 from Macclesfield. Started at 6.15am. Ran until well after 10.30pm. Now it's a shadow. Unbelievable that there is no evening service. No wonder it's all cars now.
Dave Cash
Thursday 22nd June 2017 at 3:53 am
I took the 88 (Knutsford - Alt ) bus into Wilm yesterday. I arrived 10 min before appointed timetable time, it never arrived. The next bus arrived ~40 mins later. with 2x? expected passengers. Driver said they were a driver short on the route, hence the gap. I completed my business in Wilm. but just missed the return bus before the 30min gap in Service, so I faced 1 hr before the next bus.
IMO a 1hour service is the min acceptable for the 88.
Airlines/rail have to pay compensation to pax for most delays in journey times.
I would not include traffic delays, but a free ticket for same journey cost within x days?
Jonathan Follows
Thursday 22nd June 2017 at 8:52 am
Surely the answer is extremely simple and obvious - the only people who use our bus services are those who have no choice, and I feel sorry for them.

They don't run to any sort of timetable, it's mainly a work of fiction, and it's usually necessary to get to a bus stop early to avoid missing a service. There is also no simple information on cancellations and late running. For a parallel journey, the train is usually cheaper, always more comfortable and definitely more reliable.

Councillor Watkins has not done his research; I have previously observed on this site that Styal should have an hourly train service from May 2018. These plans can change, but he should talk to our local train operating company for confirmation and more details.

My partner used to work in Heald Green and found that walking was preferable to using the bus. His work then relocated to Didsbury and he had to use the bus. Twice they caught fire on his way to work. He learned to drive and now saves an hour a day in commuting time, most of which was spent waiting at bus stops.

The problem is that our bus services are fine for occasional use, for example as a way of starting a walk back home. But the services need regular users to be viable, and for these people anyone with an alternative will try to use it.
Jon Armstrong
Thursday 22nd June 2017 at 9:17 am
When I first came to Wilmslow in 1999, for the first few weeks my company put me up what was the Pinewood Hotel in Handforth. On my first morning there I caught the bus from in front of the hotel to travel to work in Wilmslow and I couldn't believe how long it took. With the traffic and the diversions off the main road we seemed to spend the best part of an hour, stopping at places nobody got on or off. That lunchtime, I bought an A to Z and realised that the route was actually really simple and didn't look like it should take that long, so the next morning I set off walking from the hotel at pretty much the same time as the bus left from the stop outside and got to Wilmslow before it did. That was the last time I caught a bus in Wilmslow.

Where I grew up, the buses, which were pretty well used, largely stuck to the main arterial roads, and you get off and walk for the last few minutes back to your home street or whatever. Here, it seems that instead of having main stops on places like Manchester Road and the people walking to these stops, the bus spends ages on diversions round places like Colshaw and Dean Road virtually doing a door-to-door service which all add a huge amount of time to the journey and makes it far less attractive to most passengers.

When people on here talk about getting the bus to places like Stockport or I have no idea why they would do that rather than get then train, which is faster, more regular, more reliable and probably little difference in cost.
Nik Eastwood
Thursday 22nd June 2017 at 3:43 pm
youngsters who work are more than happy to have lots of driving lessons to pass the driving test, then spend another fortune on insuring a car, plus fuel and tax, I find that many people have new or nearly new cars now on finance packages, rather than an older model. They invest all that money so that they dont have to stand out in the rain waiting for a bus that may never arrive.
I cant remember the last time I got a bus, and I am 46, car is king and worth every penny.
Kathryn Blackburn
Saturday 24th June 2017 at 7:52 am
Would it be impossible for CEC to run the bus service on a pre-booking basis online like the train and national coach do ? Then it could quickly see when and where the public need is and accommodate it or not as appropriate.
Sorry briefly forgot that would take half a brain to pull off and as we all know............
Florence Collier
Sunday 25th June 2017 at 6:34 am
I take the 88 on occasion, when its times coincide with when I arrive at the bus station. It seems to be running more on time these days which is very welcome. The price for three stops is £2 - used to be higher so I only used it when I really needed to (I am lucky I can walk home).

I did start to use it with my children to save their little legs after quite a lot of walking already and activities, until the driver said they also had to pay: £1.30 each for over 5s. So £4.60 for three stops for the three of us, when a taxi is £5 door to door. I wouldn't take a taxi unless I had to so we're back to walking most of the time. Other services are completely unreliable and too few and far between - I've taken the 130 to the hospital before.

Agree with Jonathan above. People who use it have no other choice. For everyone else it's a catch 22: you can only use a service as an alternative to a car if it is viable to do so. If the service is running frequently, early as well as late in the day, on time and has direct routes, and there's an active campaign to make them switch then people might be tempted. It's definitely necessary to do so... For our health (air pollution from choked roads killing thousands) if nothing else.
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 28th June 2017 at 7:12 pm
I can only repeat what I said before. East Cheshire is not bus land any more. Where I used to live in Leicestershire bus use is much higher and includes car owners. Positive feedback increases frequencies. Buses go to the centre of towns and cities and parking problems are eliminated. No one in the Wilmslow area even thinks this way.

Incidentally the 88 is the successor to the old 92 to Knutsford and the 97 from Macclesfield-Wilmslow-Altrincham. 92 was occasionally hourly or sometimes every 90min. 97 every 2 hours, starting at midday! The 88 is better during the day.

When our roads finally clog up things might be different.