Anger over Morton bus service cuts

Coun Lesley Rollings and local residenst are petitioning against changes to bus Stagecoach bus services in Morton G120403-4b
Coun Lesley Rollings and local residenst are petitioning against changes to bus Stagecoach bus services in Morton G120403-4b

PROTESTERS gathered in a Morton bus shelter this week to demonstrate against bus cuts they say have left them ‘stranded’.

From Monday 2nd April the Gainsborough Town Service 1 and 1a no longer serves Morton.

Instead it is replaced by Interconnect 100 which runs along Ropery Road, Morton Front and Vanessa Drive, and a dial-a-ride CallConnect service.

Stagecoach East Midlands said it was necessary to reduce the service because of increasing operating costs.

But residents are furious that they were not consulted and are suddenly without a bus service.

Hundreds have already signed a petition to bring the buses back.

“I have lived in Morton for 52 years and there has always been a decent bus service. Now we’re stranded.” said Sheila Brighton, 74, who lives with her 94-year-old mother at the bottom of Mill Lane.

“I use the bus four times a week to go into town and do shopping, and my mother uses it three times, now we’ve got at least a 20 minute walk to the nearest bus stop.”

Sheila said walking that far would not be possible for her mother and other elderly people who rely on the bus as a lifeline to keeping their independence.

The nearest bus now stops near the Ship Inn on Front Street, Morton.

Sheila said: “I appreciate the CallConnect service is available but you might have to sit there while it drops people in Laughton and Blyton.”

“I hope we can get our bus back.”

Chairman of Morton Parish Council John Parry said people would have appreciated some consultation or prior warning before the services changed.

“Most people found out from drivers, and some of them didn’t know,” he said.

“This bus is busiest on Tuesdays and Saturdays because of the market. Surely they could have kept those days running instead of axing the service completely.”

“This was an essential service for people at the top end of Morton. Not only do they have heavy shopping bags to carry, their doctor’s surgery, chemist and dentist are all a bus ride away.”

“It has made it more difficult for people to access their local services easily.”

West Lindsey District Councillor for Thonock ward Lesley Rollings said she had drawn up a petition after hearing how upset people were about the bus changes.

“Everyone is just appalled, even those people who don’t use the buses,” she said.

“Many people moved here because there were good public transport links.”

“We just hope they will reconsider when they see the level of local opposition.”

The petition is available to sign in Morton Co-op, the Ship Inn, the Crooked Billet Pub or Morton Village Hall.

Stagecoach said the changes were made to deal with extra costs incurred through a cut in Government grant.

The Department For Transport has applied a 20 per cent cut in the tax rebate known as Bus Service Operators Grant - effectively adding 39p to every gallon of their diesel.

Dave Skepper, commercial director for Stagecoach East Midlands, said he recognised the re-routing of the InterConnect 100 service was ‘inferior’ to the previous frequency of journeys, and did not cover the Mill Lane and Laughton Lane areas.

He also explained the changes had been confirmed with Lincolnshire County Council at meetings in October 2011 and January this year.

“Under the Transport Act 1985 councils have an obligation to consider any changes or withdrawals to commercial bus services and how they will affect local communities, which includes undertaking a consultation with local people and parish councils, to help them decide whether any journeys should be reinstated using funding from their supported services budget,” said Mr Skepper.

He added that revenue from the Morton section of the town service route had barely been covering costs and combined with extra fuel costs the service would have been making a loss from April.

Chris Briggs, head of transportation at Lincolnshire County Council, said the county council has added a large CallConnect bus to ensure there was some public transport provision in Morton.

For further details of this service call 01522 553143 or follow @CallConnectBus on Twitter.