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Bus concerns voiced at packed meeting in Weymouth
IT WAS standing room only as villagers packed in to a meeting over proposed bus changes in Weymouth.
Crowds of people squeezed in to the Mission Hall at Sutton Poyntz today where they were told they would have to wait until a meeting at the Pavilion next Thursday to address the First bus company with their concerns.
The number 4 service from Weymouth to Preston will no longer come off the main road to serve Oakbury Drive, and the 4B service is being axed all together, meaning First will no longer serve Sutton Poyntz.
Outraged residents were unable to address First with their concerns because no-one from the company was available to attend today's meeting, despite many elderly residents making their way to it.
The meeting was called by borough councillor for Preston Ian Bruce in response to changes due to come into effect from March 24. He had hoped someone from the company would attend.
Barbara Harrison from Sutton Poyntz said when she heard about the bus service changes she was 'incensed'.
She added: “I felt my independence was being affected, I don't drive and now I will have to rely on friends.
“It's curtailing my quality of life.
“I am sure there are going to be a lot of people here affected in a similar way - our quality of life is going to be spoiled.”
South Dorset MP Richard Drax, who addressed the meeting, said it was important to remember First is a commercial business and under European Union regulations cannot run a service at a loss.
Nevertheless, he said he would do all he could to come to a compromise with the company.
He added: “There are no regulations to say they have got to do what we want them to do, they are a commercial business.
“But we have to persuade them to look again at this and hope that they will go away from that meeting on Thursday and come back with something better than what's being offered at the moment.”
People have rallied against the transport firm in recent months to demand a better service and they also say the quality of the company's vehicle fleet is poor.
And many of those at this morning's meeting said they would struggle to get to the Pavilion on Thursday night - not least because the last bus back is at 8.10pm.
Sutton Poyntz resident Shirley Meech, 84, said the current service was poor enough as it is.
She added: “I don't apologise for being old, I just apologise for being a nuisance to everybody.
“Because that's the way old people are made to feel.
“I get the number 4 and sometimes these come every 40 minutes, sometimes not at all.
“You try standing for 30 minutes in pouring rain.
“And sometimes you might have a doctor's appointment so you struggle there yourself because the bus isn't reliable.
“This is an area where there are a lot of old people.
“We went through the last war and we helped to build to build this country back up.
“I hoped to leave this country in a better shape than when I came in to it, but life for old people now it's appalling.
“I doubt if I can get to the meeting on Thursday and I expect that's the same for a lot of the old people here.”
*Thursday night's meeting with three First Bus managers will take place at Weymouth Pavilion's Ocean Room from 7pm for all travellers affected by timetable changes in Weymouth and Portland.
You can send your concerns beforehand to email@example.com
The changes proposed by First for Preston Service 4/4B (Weymouth - Preston or Sutton Poyntz - Weymouth): Both the route and the timetable of this service are being altered from the end of March. Specifically, Service 4 buses travelling outbound from Weymouth to Preston will no longer come off the main road to serve Oakbury Drive. Instead buses will serve stops on the main road, with residents living on Oakbury Drive needing to walk through to there in order to catch them. The change is being made to save some time on the overall journey. In addition to this, the Service 4B route variation is being removed from the timetable with all journeys set to operate as, and follow the route of, Service 4 from March 24. This change means that Sutton Poyntz will no longer be served by First buses.
Monday to Saturday evening journeys on Service 4 are being reinstated from March 24. From this date buses will run every half an hour during the evening, up until around 2300 hours. Customers who use Service 4 are advised to get a copy of the new timetable.
A spokesman said: “First considered the decision to withdraw the 4B route variation long and hard before it was made as the company does appreciate the impact that may have on local people, however on balance the decision was made to ensure that long term commercial viability of the route.
“Notably at present buses can find it very challenging to operate in this area, due to narrow roads, parking concerns and a tight reversing manoeuvre at the end and these issues are further compounded by relatively few people boarding from stops along this bit of the route.”
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