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Communities angered after Portland to Dorchester bus service faces the axe
COMMUNITIES are angered after hearing another bus service is to face the chop.
The Somerset-based company, which took over Portland firm Sureline in 2009, says the hourly 210 route it operates on weekdays is unprofitable in light of increasing competition from transport giant First.
Unlike First however, the 210 runs all day from the island via the sailing academy to Dorchester including Dorset County Hospital.
First operates its own Portland-Dorchester service but only at peak times.
With South West Coaches pulling out it means people wishing to travel between the two communities at other times will have to change in Weymouth. First has no plans to alter services to compensate.
The move comes amid growing concern about a reduction in bus services generally.
County councillor for Portland Tim Munro said South West Coaches pulling out would be a ‘huge loss’ which would hit the most vulnerable.
He said: “This affects an important transport corridor for people wishing to go to Weymouth and on to Dorchester including County Hall and the hospital.
“It is a direct connection without having to change.”
Retired John Dancy of Wyke, who has been a regular traveller on the 210 service, said: “If someone is a bit bad on their pins, they are facing a walk from either the bus station or Debenhams to the seafront to catch a connecting bus.
“The direct bus is very handy.”
Academy chief executive John Tweed said: “We’ve had discussions with First about trying to get its main service 1 to divert into the academy but it would add time to the journey and First couldn’t justify that for the amount of passengers it anticipated using the stop.
“We also asked whether it would be possible for additional stops on Portland Beach Road but I understand it would be difficult.”
Mr Tweed added: “It would be unfortunate for us and other businesses if the 210 was stopped altogether. I hope some service will be restored for what is designated a big employment hub.
“We’re encouraging people to come to the academy and we’d like to see them using public transport and green alternatives to the car.”
Borough councillor Kate Wheller, who campaigned following bus cuts in Wyke, said: “There’s been a lot of uncertainty about bus services.
“The elderly are hit particularly hard by these cuts.”
‘Decision has been difficult’
SOUTH West Coaches’ service manager Lewis Trahar said: “The 210 route has become unprofitable mainly due to increased competition from First, which has led to passenger numbers declining.
“It’s very unfortunate because it’s a mainstay route for Portland. Although we are the only ones that run a direct service throughout the day, First has increased its frequency between Weymouth and Dorchester.
“There are a significant amount of people who wish to travel straight through but with First running a 10-minute frequency between Weymouth and Portland and a 15-minute frequency between Weymouth and Dorchester the casual user is more likely to catch those buses than wait an hour for us.
“It’s a difficult decision. Over the Olympics we saw a bit of a spike but since then we’ve gone back to the numbers we had previously. We’ve reviewed it and wanted to keep running it for as long as possible.”
Mr Trahar said the Portland depot still had a future as it supplied vehicles for three other routes plus a number of other contracts. Job losses have been avoided.