Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from B J Turner (BUS 91)

I understand that your committee wishes to have views on changes to Bus Services. First of all, let me set the context. I live in a village (population 700) in Somerset, right on the border with Devon & Dorset. Our nearest towns are Chard in one direction, four miles distant, and Crewkerne, seven miles distant. The largest towns are Taunton to the west, 20 miles away, and Yeovil to the east, 15 miles away.

Four years ago, we decided to "down-size" from our five-bedroom house with large garden to a smaller, more manageable dwelling suitable for retirement living. We had a number of criteria when looking for a new property, one of which was that it had to be on a bus route, since my wife does not drive and we wanted to follow guidelines of reducing car use to a minimum. We settled on Winsham because it had an hourly bus service that ran from beyond Crewkerne in the east to Taunton, via Chard, in the west. This was ideal and we discovered that the bus was well used. Travelling to Chard or Crewkerne meant that there was an hour to do what was needed (this might be shopping; dentist/doctor/optician/hairdressing appointments) before catching the bus back. On occasions, a bus would not turn up for one reason or another but an hour wait, although irritating, could mean a visit to the library or a coffee somewhere and the day was not too badly disrupted.

Recently the service has been changed. It now runs every two hours and only from Crewkerne to Chard. A change of bus in Chard or Crewkerne is necessary if one wishes to visit Taunton or Yeovil. Then there is the constant worry of missing the connection (in a rural area, one only has to meet a herd of cows, a slow tractor or two large vehicles unable to pass each other for this to happen) and having a two hour wait in the middle of one's journey, possibly in both directions.

The consequence has been that the number of people using the bus from Winsham has dropped dramatically. People have lost confidence in the service, certainly where appointments are concerned. We fear that there are further changes afoot and that the bus company, Stagecoach, will decide that the service - which they have ruined - is no longer viable. It will be of their own making.

We have never had an evening or Sunday service but we can live with that. What we need is the through service restored. Even a two hourly through service would be acceptable.

As to the concessionary scheme for the elderly, most would be happy to revert to the old "half-price" system if we had a reliable service.

March 2011

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