A FOREST county councillor fears residents who rely on public transport are going to become “prisoners in their own homes” due to recently announced bus cuts.
At a Shire Hall meeting last week, transport chiefs updated councillors on the current situation after the council secured replacements for several, but not all, bus routes that were withdrawn by Stagecoach.
Cllr Chris McFarling (Green, Sedbury) questioned leaders on where future funding for rural public transport is going to come from.
And while he thanked the cabinet member and officers for being honest about the problem, he described the reality many passengers face with buses simply not turning up or people being left stranded.
“Most county councillors have been receiving complaints about the cuts to services from their residents, some of whom the only access they have to facilities is through a bus”, Cllr McFarling said.
“Not having a bus means they are literally imprisoned in their own homes, unable to walk or cycle because they are too old or too young or because it’s so dangerous.
“Public transport is critical to providing an alternative to the private car whose emissions make up to a third of our carbon footprint. I’ve got countless emails of people who have gone to a bus stop only for the bus not to turn up.
“Or even worse, they’ve gone shopping, got bags of shopping to bring back and the return bus doesn’t turn up.
“If people know a bus is definitely going to leave at a certain time and get you to the destination at a certain time, bus users will come back in their droves. What they want is certainty and reliability.”
Education, skills and bus transport cabinet member Philip Robinson (Con, Mitcheldean) said the challenges affecting rural transport were a national issue.
He welcomed that Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper is the new transport secretary which may help the situation in Gloucestershire.
“It is welcome that the new Secretary of State for Transport comes from a very rural constituency and understands the pressures on rural transport.
“I have hope that we can use that awareness in that it will lead in some way to Chris’ questions about where the funding is going to come from.”
Meanwhile, opposition councillors have urged the Conservative administration to “get a grip” and take responsibility for the services they’ve failed to find replacements for.
Transport spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat group at the council, Cllr Roger Whyborn, (Benhall and Up Hatherley) says it is the council’s job to provide the missing services.
He said: “The Conservative administration has tried to claim that salvaging some routes ranks as a great success story – but as things stand there are no offers to run some 150,000 journeys per year – ranging from Cinderford to Lydney in the Forest, through to the eastern leg of the F route in Cheltenham, and the E route in Woodmancote.”