Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from D Laban (BUS 07)

SUMMARY

1.  This evidence is in reference to the withdrawal in January 2009 of the 639 bus service from Wednesbury to Walsall via Darlaston Road. The service had been operated by National Express West Midlands, but was stopped as the operator claimed there were not enough users to make it viable.

2.  I am a local resident. I was one of the organisers of a petition expressing concern at the way the service was cancelled, and claiming that the reason was not lack of use, but the failings of the operator to run a reliable service. The petition called on National Express West Midlands and Centro, the local transport authority, to take steps to remedy the situation and reinstate the route.

POOR SERVICE OF BUS 639

3.  The 639 bus used to run from the nearest stop to my house every hour on the half hour. It was often late. We would have to wait 45 minutes. Sometimes the bus would pass in the other direction and the bus driver would call out to those waiting, saying that he was not coming back.

4.  The bus would run from Walsall to Darlaston around the estate, and if no one was waiting further up on the estate, it would sometimes turn around and go back without completing the route.

WITHDRAWAL OF ROUTE

5.  Since the service has been withdrawn it has been difficult for some residents to reach the local hospital. One day I had an appointment at the Manor Hospital, at 3.50pm. I had to walk into Darlaston and then catch two different buses. I had to leave the house at 2.15pm in order to arrive on time, as the buses from Walsall to the hospital often run 45-60 minutes late.

6.  There are many elderly people in the area, and many who cannot walk to catch the bus in Darlaston. I am a senior citizen, and there are many others older than me in the neighbourhood.

7.  Those who cannot catch the bus have to pay £5 each way for a taxi to the hospital.

8.  One alternative is to catch the 79 bus from the next street, but this involves a very steep hill. The 79 is meant to run every 10 minutes, but often one has to wait 45 minutes between buses, and they often turn up two or three at a time. This also affects people in Wednesbury, Darlaston and Moxley.

9.  The steep hill makes this an unsuitable alternative for the elderly and those with limited mobility. I have strained my arm muscles carrying shopping back from the 79 bus stop to my home.

10.  In an email responding to the petition and EDM 975, tabled by local MP Valerie Vaz, Centro spokesperson Babs Coombes named the 327 and 645 as alternative bus routes. However, in order to catch these buses, it is necessary to walk the full length of a park. This can be lonely and unnerving, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable and those travelling alone or in the dark.

11.  The email from Centro also names the Ring & Ride service. However this is not always convenient, as seats must be booked two days in advance, and the route can take a very long time as the buses divert to pick people up along the way.

12.  Like the 79, the 639 used to take a meandering route. The traffic could make the buses late. But the residents needed the service so much that they were prepared to wait three-quarters of an hour for the bus to come.

13.  This matter affects people living on estates in Darlaston and Moxley. It is especially an issue for reaching the hospital. This is a shame as the Manor is a brand new hospital, but local people cannot get to it. There are many people aged 80 or over living in the area who struggle to reach the hospital.

FUTURE SERVICES

14.  There is a new estate being built across the road and this would provide many more potential users of a bus service that covered Darlaston Road.

15.  I have spent almost two years campaigning on this issue, along with Julie Bosley, who has also submitted evidence. We suggest that the existing 333E route between Darlaston and Walsall could run via Wednesbury and the Manor Hospital. This would be a shorter route than the 639.

December 2010



 
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Prepared 11 August 2011