Stagecoach faces angry backlash from Bedford councillors as changes 'will hit poorest communities'

Changes will make commuting “virtually impossible” say councillors
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Stagecoach is facing a backlash from Bedford councillors who claim its timetable changes make "commuting virtually impossible".

The bus company has announced alterations from October 30, including to the X5 and 905, but politicians claim the changes will impact the poorest communities, discriminate against rural areas, and make a "mockery" of climate change policies.

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However, Stagecoach states that the routes are "unsustainable" and that its new bus network - with changes across Bedfordshire - reflects post-pandemic travel patterns.

Stagecoach. Image: Central Beds Councillor Tracey Wye.Stagecoach. Image: Central Beds Councillor Tracey Wye.
Stagecoach. Image: Central Beds Councillor Tracey Wye.

Cllr Graeme Coombes (Bedford Conservative Group Leader) said: “It is astonishing that Stagecoach could accept record amounts of Conservative government funding just to turn around and cut the services this funding is meant to protect.

"Changes such as cutting the hourly service of the 41 bus to 90 minutes, has made commuting virtually impossible for these residents and only encourages more travel by car which makes a mockery of the Borough's climate change actions."

Meanwhile, Bedford's Green councillors are "frustrated" at the changes.

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Councillor Ben Foley, who represents some of the most deprived communities in Bedford (in the Midland Road area), said: "People will notice the loss of routes like the ones to and from Willington, Sandy and Biggleswade, meaning people in rural areas may lose out on work or education opportunities.

"On top of that, the X5 is being cut to hourly off-peak, and lost off-peak journeys to Olney and Northampton are important, too, especially as the cost of living crisis and low pay are likely to mean more people deciding they can't afford to run a car anymore."

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Mr Foley added: "These cuts are a consequence of having privatised bus services. These loses will risk increased isolation and poverty for many."

The changes are as follows:

> The 905 service will operate on an amended route to provide faster journeys between Bedford, St Neots and Cambridge (no longer operates via Cambourne)

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> Route 1 will increase its frequency to every 15 minutes

> Route 99 and 81 will be amalgamated into a new MK1 service

> Enhanced 15 minute frequency on route 9 as far as Shortstown

> Amendments to 9a/9b, 41 and 53 timetables to reflect passenger demand

> Minor off-peak timetable amends on the X5

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> Routes 72 and 73 will be withdrawn after being deemed unsustainable

A Bedford Borough Council spokesman said: “Buses are a vital part of our public transport sector and Bedford Borough Council have worked proactively with Stagecoach to ensure that wherever possible services are retained with ongoing financial support with subsidies from the council, especially in the case of our rural network.

"Central government cuts to local councils have impacted the subsidies that some councils can offer.

"I would urge the government to increase their support for the bus network, especially when many residents are reliant on public transport due to the Cost of Living Crisis.”

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Darren Roe, managing director for Stagecoach East, said: “In line with government requirements, we have designed a new core network to provide a sustainable bus network now so that we can grow services over the long term.

"Looking ahead, buses are critical to helping achieve a green economic recovery, tackling climate change, ensuring cleaner air, and supporting connected communities.

“We will be working together with national and local government to attract more people onto more sustainable public transport."