Shropshire Star

Protesters block Bishop's Castle road in bus row

Protesters knelt in the road and brought traffic to a standstill to demonstrate against Shropshire Council's proposals to cut bus services.

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Protester Sarah Wilkinson

Organiser Sarah Wilkinson mustered more than 70 people to the A488 in Bishop's Castle this morning and forced cars and lorries to turn back.

She said: "I hope that Shropshire Council now realise they have met their match. We had people ranging in age from students to silver surfers. It was scary but the fact that people did it was really encouraging.

"Bishop's Castle will not be used as a guinea pig by the council with regards to the proposed changes to the 553 bus service.

"I was delighted with the number of people who came along to the protest. We had banners and a tannoy and some motorists backed our blockade.

"One lorry driver did weaponise his vehicle and tried to run me over. If we had had a police presence that would have helped and they only arrived at the end. But we realised we had made our point.

"I think that when Shropshire Council sees how many people came out they may act. I have never known Bishop's Castle people to take part in direct action before. When the council sees how far people are prepared to go, that might sway their position.

Sarah halts a lorry

"This is the first of many protests that we have planned against the council's proposal to alter the 553 timetable. We are not going to give up, in fact we are going to step it up a notch. We plan to picket Shirehall when they discuss this matter. I think they will think again.

"It is imperative that this service is maintained. If people lose it not only will those who rely on a bus service have to move, they may also lose their jobs. If they do not have a car they will be stranded in Bishop's Castle.

"It is a terrifying prospect and it is cruel of the council. This is not practical. If the buses go there will be more taxis on the road.

"If you want to buy a house in Bishop's Castle you will need to have a car. It is discriminatory against people who rely on the bus, they will not be able to move here. Bishop's Castle has been a market town since medieval times and that could be lost."

A public consultation ran earlier this year.

Under the proposals, the council plans to alter timetables and increase fares in a bid to save £450,000.

The 553 service would be cut from five journeys a day to two.

James Willocks, Shropshire Council’s transport commissioning manager, said: “We want to thank everyone who took part in our consultation into the proposed reduction of the council's public transport budget, which ended on 6 May, including those who contacted us to express concerns about proposed changes to the Bishop’s Castle to Plox Green service.

“We received 954 responses and all of these will now be carefully considered before the consultation findings, and recommended next steps, are considered by Shropshire Council’s Cabinet on 12 June.”