A BUS company is set to cut a service that it runs through the Moorlands and East Staffordshire from two stops an hour to one stop every hour under a new re-branding scheme that is “designed around customer demand”. The decision has brought concerns from a number of communities within the area. First Bus are poised rename their 32 service, which travels from Hanley, through Cheadle and onto Uttoxeter and back again, as “Kingfisher”
The service, which will now operate hourly, is set to be launched on Sunday, September 29.
The route, which also comprises of stops in Werrington, Kingsley, Tean, Checkley and Stramshall, is overseen by First Potteries; the department responsible for the North Staffordshire area within First Bus.
Dan Flanagan, Operations Manager for First Potteries, told the Times and Echo: “We’re making changes to the 32 service, including introducing connections at Uttoxeter station onwards to Derby on East Midlands Railway, so will be giving it a new identity – ‘Kingfisher’.
“The service will now operate hourly between Hanley, Cheadle and Uttoxeter throughout the day.
“As a commercial bus operator running without public subsidy, our service is designed around customer demand and we feel this is the right level of service.”
The company released it’s new timetable for the Kingfisher line earlier this month, which can be viewed at www.firstgroup.com/potteries/plan-journey/timetables.
Cheadle Town Councillor Jamie Evans told the Times and Echo: “Looking into this new bus timetable, First Bus has not put in a single regard for children accessing school or college students.
“These people will be waiting around Cheadle for an hour before school starts or college students getting into Hanley will be hanging around college an hour earlier. It’s a joke.
“My personal take is First Bus has a lot to answer for.
“First Bus needs to answer to the people of Cheadle and surrounding villages in these lack of services around the area.
“The question is; in one years’ time will First Bus run a service this way with the way it’s going? It’s not looking good.
“If First Bus cannot commit to Cheadle or the villages around the area then let us speak to other operators who can meet our needs.
“First Bus are a disgrace and need to answer these questions. First Bus is slowly killing this town with this poor service.
“First managers who make these decisions should come to Cheadle and answer these questions.
“I’m also disappointed that the Staffordshire County Council did not consult the public or First Bus in the matter.”
In response to these comments, managing director for First Potteries, Nigel Eggleton, stated: “Our new timetable has been designed around how customers are currently using the service.
“We are a commercial operator and this service operates without any public subsidy so can only operate when there are enough customers.
“When we register a change to a bus service, local authorities – in this case, Staffordshire County Council – have a four-week consultation period to raise any issues such as the issues mentioned for school children but we received no communication on this occasion.
“In our deregulated market, another operator can choose to operate their own service in the area if they felt it was a good opportunity.
“My team have taken great care putting the new timetable together, especially ensuring connections to rail services at Uttoxeter, but we have checked with the school opening times for Cheadle Academy and believe the new timetables will still be suitable for pupils.
“The new timetable is designed to operate only with double deck buses to ensure sufficient capacity.
“We do make every effort to match vehicle size with demand at present, but we do occasionally need to swap vehicle types if, for example, we have a mechanical issue.
“I would be delighted to meet with Cheadle Town Council to discuss their concerns and explain the reasoning behind our decisions in more detail.”
As a result cllr Evans revealed that he is planning to meet with First Bus at the start of October to discuss the situation.
In regards to the changes in the 32 bus timetables, chair of Kingsley Parish Council, Ken Unwin, told the Times and Echo: “Kingsley and Kingsley Holt are served by First Bus on Route 32.
“The villages presently have a very good weekday service with 28 westbound buses and 26 eastbound buses each day.
“Kingsley Parish Council are mindful that nearby villages of Whiston, Foxt and Oakamoor have no daily bus service.
“We recognise that First Bus are a commercial company, the route is operated without public subsidy and as such needs to be financially viable.
“We accept that at present some buses on the route carry few passengers at certain times of the day.
“It is regrettable that Staffordshire County Council, who were apparently advised of the new route timetable, did not bring the issue to the attention of Kingsley Parish Council or the wider public.
“It is regrettable that First Bus did not undertake any public consultation on the issue, as they had done earlier in respect to Holt Lane parking problems.
“The timetable changes have raised concerns in both villages and the wider area.
“We appreciate the timetable changes will present difficulties for a number of local passengers.
“We are particularly concerned of the impact these changes will have on youngsters travelling to and from local schools in Cheadle.”
The Times and Echo reported in February that First Potteries planned to withdraw four bus services in Kingsley due to “inconsiderate parking,” with Councillor Unwin branding this particular decision as “unwelcome.”
Staffordshire County Council told the Times and Echo that they don’t have “anything to add” on the matter.
For more information on the new Kingfisher service, visit www.firstgroup.com/potteries/plan-journey/timetables/?source_id=3.
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