At Transport OPQs this morning, Jonathan Gullis raised his concerns at First Buses’ plans to close vital key bus routes in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke to the Minister for Roads and Local Transport, Richard Holden.
Less than a week after the Minister visited Stoke-on-Trent to sit down with MPs, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and other local leaders to discuss the city’s bus network, First Buses announced they were slashing several local routes and severely reducing others.
Despite the positive visit, which centred on plans to implement the delivery of the landmark £31.7 million investment into local bus services and the Minister’s recent announcement of the extension of the £2 fair cap outside of London, Jonathan was ‘appalled’ with First Buses’ announcement to cut services.
Research from the Department for Transport which highlights that those on lower incomes typically take the bus three times more than those on higher incomes. Jonathan argues that First Buses’ plans will disproportionately impact those from disadvantaged backgrounds, depriving people with the opportunity to get to school and work with ease.
Whilst Jonathan is pleased that D&G have stepped in to take over the integral 7 and 7A Sunday services, he remains “deeply frustrated” by the restrictive cuts.
Alongside raising these concerns in the House, Jonathan has written to First Buses' Interim Managing Director, Mike Watson, and met him subsequently on 30 June 2023 to express his disappointment. Jonathan hopes that pressure from Ministers will help to keep the routes open.
In the House, Jonathan said:
“Despite billions being invested in buses across the country and £31.7 million going specifically into Stoke-on-Trent, First Buses continue to cut routes, harming 21-year old carers like Charlie Preston in Chell who now might have to quit her job. This government has done its bit - isn't it time that First Buses did theirs?”
Responding, the Minister for Roads and Local Transport, Richard Holden, said:
“I'd like to thank my Hon. Friend for his question and I was delighted to visit with him and the MP for Stoke-on-Trent South to see what's going on in Stoke recently. I would urge the Council to use flexibility to work with First Bus to deliver a solution for all of his constituents - we put that flexibility in there and I hope that they use it to protect his constituents.”
Commenting, Jonathan Gullis said:
“Taking the bus is one of our most popular forms of transport, and it is appalling that First Buses are depriving people of key transport links take them to school and work. Constituents like Charlie, who is a carer, might have to quit her job because of First Buses’ plans to close these routes.
I am pleased the Minister is aware of the situation, and like the Minister, I urge First Buses to use their flexibility to work with the Council to ensure the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke and served by good quality bus routes.”