Arriva resists increased pressure for return of 'vital' Shropshire bus services

Bus company Arriva is resisting pressure from residents and an MP to re-instate lost bus services connecting two Shropshire villages to vital services.

Arriva cut back a number of services earlier this year
Arriva cut back a number of services earlier this year

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard has added his voice to those campaigning residents in Muxton and Lilleshall to return their half-hourly service between Telford and Stafford via Oakengates and Newport.

Residents say that since bus cuts were made by Arriva to routes, including the number 5 and 5A on April 23, services have been reduced to one bus an hour from Telford to Stafford, and that this change occurred without any proper consultation.

Muxton has also lost a half hourly circular service from Telford via Asda which connected, the supermarket and Muxton with its shops, pharmacy, Post Office and GP surgery.

Arriva says that it a large reduction in bus users since the pandemic has meant it has had to cut back on services.

Mr Pritchard said he understands that services need to be financially viable, but that bus companies "need to consider the social value of bus routes which are often a vital lifeline for many communities".

"Local bus services are vital link for people who need to get to work, attend medical appointments, go shopping, or meet friends and family," he said.

"Cuts to bus services have a disproportionately negative impact on elderly and the most vulnerable, many of whom rely on buses as their only form of local transport. Removing bus services will hinder their ability to shop, socialise and live their lives independently.”

Mr Pritchard said that since the reduction in services passengers have reported that buses are very crowded and that passengers are regularly turned away, leaving them waiting for up to an hour for the next service.

Campaigning resident Christine Lawrie claimed that Arriva "will not attempt to find a solution or work with us", and bosses are avoiding dialogue with the parish council.

"Timetables and schedules are drawn up by staff who have no idea of the localities and profiles of the travelling public. How can they possibly understand our needs?" she said.

An online petition has been signed so far by 25 people.

The petition states: "Our only service now is a rerouted and extended 5A which runs Telford, Stafford with a ridiculous circular route through Muxton.

"By rerouting the original 5A Muxton is reduced from four buses an hour to/from Telford to ONE. Importantly the Asda connection with Muxton has now been withdrawn completely!"

A spokesman for Arriva said it has had to "reshape" its services because fewer people are using its buses.

“The bus industry is going through a significant period of change, and we have had to reshape our services to reflect our customers’ requirements in difficult and challenging circumstances. The Covid pandemic has changed our customers’ travel patterns.

"There are fewer people travelling on our services, and those that are, appear to be making fewer journeys. This is most noticeable during the off-peak where concessions account for a high proportion of our customers."

The spokesman added that its costs are rising as it faces the "challenge of retaining and recruiting staff that are required to maintain service levels."

Arriva is also preparing to lose funding that helped it survive the pandemic.

"As we prepare for this funding to come to an end, we have had to tailor our services accordingly," said the spokesman.

"The number of customers using our services from Lilleshall and Muxton is low and represents a small proportion of those using the whole service. We have maintained links from Muxton and Lilleshall for customers who wish to travel to Telford, Newport and Stafford, with our priority being for school and college movements.

"Buses run every hour throughout the day and into the evening on Mondays to Saturdays. We also provide an hourly service on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays too."

The company says it has consulted with local transport authorities and they were notified of the intention to make changes to services.

Local councils too have limited scope to support bus services with subsidies.

But the spokesman added: "We understand that the Telford and Wrekin Council is currently exploring options to improve the transport links from certain areas and communities within the borough, including the villages of Lilleshall and Muxton."

The Telford & Wrekin area was not chosen to receive money through the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan. The company called that "very disappointing news".

"We supported Telford & Wrekin Council in developing their ambitious bus service improvement plans which sought funding from the Government to help improve services within the area," the spokesman continued.

"Regrettably, the authority wasn’t chosen for this funding, and whilst this was very disappointing news, Arriva remain committed to working in partnership with Telford and Wrekin Council to improve public transport and deliver a sustainable bus network for residents of the borough.”

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