I have received a response from Stagecoach regarding the petition from local residents in Plains Farm on the 18 and 19 bus routes. Residents put forward various compromise suggestions, but in the letter Stagecoach concluded that they cannot offer a ‘sustainable solution’ to keep or modify the bus routes that many elderly residents depend on to get around on a daily basis.
I met with Plains Farm residents on 2 June to discuss<http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/sunderland-oaps-fight-bus-service-changes-1-7944408> the route cuts, and how these changes would make their lives more difficult. Residents were concerned they would have to walk half a mile to catch a bus. Many of the residents I spoke to are in their 80s and need public transport to access public services and they complained in the strongest terms that the bus service operator has not consulted them before bringing forward these plans. I then wrote to Stagecoach to urge<http://www.bridgetphillipson.com/bridget_phillipson_mp_i_support_the_campaign_against_stagecoach_bus_route_changes> them to reconsider the changes, and listen to the concerns of the residents who would be most affected. On 15 July I arranged a meeting with Stagecoach representatives and the residents who signed the petition to facilitate discussions towards a solution. Stagecoach then agreed to look at some alternatives.
However, in his letter to me mentioned above, it has been concluded that none of these options are viable, because of the struggling ‘financial position’ of the service, higher demands on other routes, and additional costs that may occur.
This response is disappointing, to me, the residents who signed the petition, and all others who rely on these routes. I have long campaigned for a more affordable, transparent and accountable transport network for Tyne and Wear since 2010. There are currently no regulatory measures in place to ensure that bus operators in our area put local people first, before their own ease or profits.
Now that the government has introduced the Bus Services Bill to parliament, there is again the opportunity for change, and I will continue to do all I can to press for better bus services for our area. I want to see measures put in place to hold bus operators to account, and to provide services that are in the best interests of the taxpayers and travelling public, not just shareholders.