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Angry villagers will be ‘cut-off’ if bus firm wields axe
IT WAS standing room only when villagers packed a meeting about proposed bus changes in Weymouth.
Crowds of people squeezed into the Mission Hall at Sutton Poyntz and were told they would have to wait until a meeting at the Pavilion on Thursday evening to address the First bus company with their concerns.
Service 4 to Preston will no longer come off the main road to serve Oakbury Drive, and service 4B is being axed all together, meaning First will no longer serve Sutton Poyntz.
It is part of a timetable shake-up in Weymouth and Portland due to come into effect from March 24.
Residents were unable to address First with their concerns because no one from the company was available to attend the Sutton Poyntz meeting on Saturday, which had been called by borough councillor Ian Bruce.
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.
However, many of those at the meeting said they would struggle to get to the Pavilion on Thursday – 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 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 is appalling. I doubt if I can get to the meeting on Thursday and I expect that’s the same for a lot here.”
County councillor Brian Ellis said: “I live here and I use the buses. We have got to let the bus company know that our community needs to be served or it will be cut off. That’s a simple fact of life.
“The county council is not going to subsidise buses.”
‘Few people’ using service in ‘challenging’ area
Commenting on the decision to cut the Sutton Poyntz service, a First 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 it 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.”
Thursday night’s meeting with three First managers will take place at Weymouth Pavilion’s Ocean Room from 7pm and is for everyone affected by timetable changes in Weymouth and Portland.
In a survey on our website, we asked how the changes to First Bus services would affect you.
41 percent of people who voted said the changed would have a ‘significant’ impact.
Six per cent of people said they would be slightly inconvenienced and 53 percent said the changes would have no impact.