Agenda item

Bus Service Changes in Milnrow, Newhey & Firgrove

Minutes:

Nick Robert (Transport for Greater Manchester) - TfGM’s responsibility is to provide bus services that are not met by the commercial market; they do respond to needs where possible; there are financial constraints; they are aware of the community passion regarding local services; filling service gaps isn’t easy as it costs money but they are committed.

Dwayne Wells (First Bus) – role is to develop and enhance services; involved in the Oldham network review; the 181 and 182 services are currently being looked at.

Issues raised
Q. Will the 58 be changed to an hourly service?
A. It was recognised that there has been some issues with the frequency of this service which has sometimes been due to traffic issues across the network, however, it was confirmed the service will remain as a half hourly service.

Q. There are concerns that the community is being ‘cut off’ rather than being ‘joined up’.  Residents are struggling to get to local hospitals, not just for appointments, but some also work there.
A. Officers at TfGM are aware of this concern which has been raised previously with them by Ward Councillors.  Options are being looked at.  First Bus are also looking at the reliability of services with a view to making the bus network more dependable.

Q. Why was the 182 bus withdrawn?
A. It wasn’t generating enough income to cover the costs of operation.  As a commercial operator, First Bus has to match supply to demand; there was too much local competition.

Q. Residents expressed their concern that drivers do not account for all passengers, which distorts figures and gives a false representation of data and use of the service.  There is concern that buses have been withdrawn for this reason.
A. This is a common observation but it isn’t the only data set that is used when making operational decisions.

Q. Residents asked how long will the 451 and 462 continue to run through the estates. These are smaller buses that are deteriorating and it is understood that First Bus have no plans to purchase any more of these size of vehicles.
A. This is a TfGM contracted service which stipulates it is operated by a smaller vehicle.  When put out to tender it may be First Bus that bids for it along with other suppliers, but the specification of the contract will have to be delivered.

Q. Why do the surrounding areas, out of the Rochdale Borough, appear to have a much better inclusive service?
A. First Bus and TfGM agree that the local services could be improved.

Q. Why are so many buses late or don’t appear at all.  Drivers don’t adhere to the timetables and are repeatedly setting off early from bus stops.
A. Timetables are an approximate time and they are often subject to change due to a number of influences out of a driver’s control.  If a driver is witnessed departing early from a timing point, please report it.

Q. Please can you explain why, since the timetable changes in September 2016, the 451 bus service has been so erratic – there are buses constantly late or even missing; data and passengers are not being recorded.  A lot of people depend on this service with varying needs.  Can you please explain how this is considered acceptable?  In addition to this a number of supplementary questions and observations were also raised, as follows:

·           There is no incentive for the drivers to check passes and record passenger numbers.

·           Drivers don’t have time to check and record passengers because they are always late.

·           Rossendale operate a ticket system which appears to work better.

A. First Bus are concerned about the issues raised and realise that there may be a driver training issue which will be looked into, as will all the issues raised.  Recruitment of drivers has changed; customer service professionals are now recruited and then taught how to drive instead of the other way round. Best practise will be looked at.

Q. Will the 182 bus service be reinstated?
A. No, it wasn’t a sustainable service.  The decision was taken following an independent survey.

Q. The 451 and 58 services are timetabled to depart from Rochdale Bus Station at the same time.  Why are they operating in direct competition?
A. This issue will be investigated.

Q. A resident complained about a double decker bus being used for The Cray Estate service.
A. This is due to breakdowns.  To ensure a service is provided sometimes larger vehicles have to be used.

A resident had emailed in the following statement – ‘The bus service is less than atrocious for the residents of Kiln Lane, Huddersfield Road and over on the Ladyhouse Estate.  We have lost the 452, which linked Hollingworth Lake and Littleborough. The 462 and 451 run every two hours with a big gap to accommodate the school runs.  The 58 is less than reliable and for residents living in these areas it is less than useless if they have mobility issues.  We have a good tram link but again this is no good for residents in the above areas.

Final Points
Residents were thanked for their input; there are a lot of common concerns.  It was reiterated that First Bus only supply services where they will make money and recover their costs; it takes a lot of people to use a service in order for it to be sustainable.  There are similar problems in other areas, ie rural areas are struggling.  TfGM are looking at how a link to the hospital can be provided.  Current legislation may change; there is an argument for greater control which could change how bus services are delivered at a local level.  There is no easy solution but TfGM and First Bus will listen to concerns and will work closely with Councillors and residents.