A 1,000-name petition to resurrect a “lifeline” bus service axed in the summer has been submitted to regional transport chiefs.
The number 18 from Kingswood to Bath via Keynsham was withdrawn when the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) decided not to renew the contract with First after reviewing its financial support, with metro mayor Dan Norris blaming massive cuts in government funding.
It sparked outrage from passengers and local politicians, who say the route is vital to rural communities, and they began a campaign to reinstate the service, which included stops at Bitton, Oldland Common, Longwell Green and Warmley.
South Gloucestershire Council cabinet member Cllr Erica Williams presented the petition to the Weca committee on Friday, December 3, calling on the combined authority to reverse its withdrawal of subsidies for the 18.
She told the meeting at Keynsham civic centre that the route was axed “without warning”.
“This was done with absolutely no public consultation, with none of the users of the service, many people like myself who do not drive, and many who are making a conscious choice to use more sustainable forms of transport such as buses,” Cllr Williams said.
“At no point were these residents of South Gloucestershire given an opportunity to have their say on how important the service was to them.
“What was even more concerning was the fact that after the service was scrapped, little to no effort went into communicating this to the public.
“I have lost count of the number of people who I have spoken to or have seen comment on social media that they were left waiting at bus stops for buses that never came.
“Is this the kind of transport authority Weca is, which makes ill-informed, snap decisions without consulting or informing the people such decisions will heavily impact?”
She said the petition was backed by fellow Bitton and Oldland Common ward Conservative Cllr Paul Hughes and Kingswood Tory MP Chris Skidmore.
Cllr Williams said the decision to scrap the route was based on passenger numbers but this was a “flawed practice” because these had still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
“We should be finding ways to support the services that connect our communities and prevent them from becoming more isolated,” she said.
The councillor said that despite securing hundreds of millions of pounds from the chancellor in the recent budget and spending review, there was still no indication the service would be revived.
Mr Norris replied: “You know I won’t completely agree with what you’ve said because it’s to do with the pandemic and changes of funding by central government.
“That’s why I’ve got the support of the Kingswood MP in the past and hopefully shortly as well to get more resources because I agree with you, we should be able to keep these important bus services going.
“The difficulty is how we fund those if money is being taken away from us.”
Speaking in September shortly after the petition was launched, the Labour metro mayor said: “The government is cutting local bus subsidies by two-thirds. So-called Levelling Up is failing to recognise the unique role buses play in the lives of people across the West of England.
“This short-changing by government is placing our local bus services in peril.”
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