Calls for improvement to poor bus service in ‘transport desert’ Rother Valley where elderly left 'standing at stops for hours'
A South Yorkshire MP is calling for improvements to ‘poor’ bus services in the Rother Valley area after residents raised concerns over price increases, punctuality and reliability.
Alexander Stafford MP said that one of the first pieces of casework he received following his election was about poor bus services and price increases from First, who look after the majority of routes in his constituency.
Since then, the MP said that queries on this topic have ‘only increased’ and improving transport infrastructure in Rother Valley has become a ‘top priority’ for him.
On Wednesday (March 10), Mr Stafford hosted a public meeting over Zoom between Rother Valley residents and Firstbus managing Ddrector for Midlands and South Yorkshire, Nigel Eggleton.
A wide range of concerns were discussed at the meeting from punctuality, reliability and complaint handling to future routes, to the need for an integrated bus network and the next generation of green buses.
There was a consensus about the need to have a great reliable service that meets the needs and serves future opportunities for the whole of Rother Valley.
Mr Stafford said: “Since my election, the poor bus service in our area has been one of the issues that constituents raise with me time and time again.
"The situation is disgraceful – buses are infrequent, tickets are expensive, coverage of the constituency is patchy and incomplete, and the services that do exist are utterly unreliable.
“The problem is especially acute given that Rother Valley is a transport desert.
“Car ownership in Rother Valley is lower than the national average, we do not have any rail infrastructure to connect our towns, and the semi-rural nature of the constituency makes cycling and walking between settlements totally unfeasible. Buses are absolutely critical in connecting our communities.
"I have received reports of elderly people standing at bus stops for two hours in all weathers to ensure that if one bus does not arrive, they still have a chance of catching the service an hour later and thereby making their appointment. This state of affairs can no longer continue.”
Nigel Eggleton, managing director at First South Yorkshire, said: ” I found it very useful listening to all the comments and suggestions raised by the residents, local councillors and Alexander in reference to the provision of bus services in Rother Valley.
"So much has happened whilst we have worked through the pandemic and it is inevitable there will be many questions being asked and uncertainties regarding patronage demand and network provision going forward.
"I can however assure everyone that we will be working closely with key stakeholders and our local communities to ensure that buses will run where there is demand and we will be seeking to pursue all opportunities where funding is available to subsidise the areas where there is a requirement to run less frequent services.”
Mr Stafford also spoke in Parliament about the need to ensure all communities in Rother Valley are linked up with a good public bus network.
He also raised his ongoing local campaign for a direct bus link between Malty and Dinnington with ministers.