Protest over ‘pathetic’ review on Sheffield bus cuts

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Campaigners could hold a ‘alternative consultation’ on bus cuts in Sheffield as the official review ends tomorrow.

Protesters marched through the city centre shouting ‘save our buses’ today in a demonstration against proposals from the Sheffield Bus Partnership.

Bus cuts protesters with their petition outside Sheffield Interchange

Bus cuts protesters with their petition outside Sheffield Interchange

Anger at the changes, which will renumber, remove, replace or reroute dozens of services has been mounting, with well supported petitions across the city and more than 1,300 people taking part in official consultation.

Yesterday campaigners, many from the South Yorkshire Freedom Riders who led the protest against cuts to fares last year, said they were looking at holding their own consultation if it was not extended.

The official consultation has been heavily criticised because of a lack of information on buses and little clarity about what the plans mean.

George Arthur, from Barnsley Residents’ Action Group, addressed campaigners when they arrived at the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive HQ from Sheffield Bus Interchange.

He said: “The failure to broadcast to people what is going on has been absolutely pathetic.

“When I read a story in The Star it said that 800 people had taken part in the consultation at that point, when the population of the city is half a million.

“If this body is meant to represent the travelling public in Sheffield it needs to take its position seriously instead of acting at the behest of bus operators.”

Campaigners are to meet with transport chiefs next Thursday.

Depending on what comes of the discussions, they may opt to press ahead with their alternative consultation.

They would carry it out by visiting parts of Sheffield that are affected by proposed changes.

Sheffield Trade Union Council also voted unanimously to oppose the cuts at a meeting earlier this week.

Council secretary Martin Mayer, speaking at the protest, said the cuts were ‘horrendous’ and people would ‘need to be an expert’ to understand the complex information.

The former bus worker said: “What’s more shocking is that the Passenger Transport Executive has given no mention of the fact that these cuts represent a ten to 15 per cent cut.”

He said if the changes went ahead, 50 buses a day would come off the streets, affecting approximately 150 jobs, by his calculations.

Calls for a quality contract, where the route network would be taken over by the city council and contracted out to operators, were also made.

And Mr Mayer said it was only the ‘first day’ of the protest.

The bus partnership, made up of bus operators, the city council and transport bodies, says the changes will ‘improve’ the network by optimising routes into the city centre and employment areas.

Changes could apply from the end of October.

Proposals include rerouting the number 70 service from Dore away from hospitals, schools and the university in Broomhill, scrapping the SL2 tram link bus in Stannington, withdrawing the 84 from Wisewood and Loxley, and in Norton Lees reducing the number 19 and 20 bus services from every half hour to every hour.

Sue Wild, aged 69 and of Norton Lees, was at the protest.

She said: “Elderly people rely on these buses, it is their only comfort to go to town or see their friends, as well as using them for hospital appointments.

“If there’s only one bus every hour and it doesn’t match up with your appointment you will be either an hour early or late.

“What about students going to college and people going to work?

“I just wonder if all the people making these decisions have cars so it does not affect them.”

Other residents have contacted councillors about the replacement of the number four bus by the number 24, which does not go to the railway station, and weekend buses that travel to Chatsworth Estate and Bakewell in Derbyshire as they will no longer visit Bents Green.

Graves Park Coun Ian Auckland has written to David Young, interim director general at the transport executive, to outline 500 complaints from affected residents in the Woodseats, Derbyshire Lane, Thorpe House and Graves Park areas.

He said: “Bus services are essential for elderly people, disabled people and young people in Graves Park Ward. To reduce these services would have a significant, negative effect on the lives of many people in this ward who have no other means of transport. Hourly services will not prove successful at attracting more paying passengers.

“I urge you to reconsider the planned cuts to bus services in S8.”

The official consultation from the bus partnership ends on Friday July 31.

To take part visit www.travelsouthyorkshire.com/sbp.

Paper forms are also at Sheffield and Rotherham interchanges.