AN MP has launched a stinging attack on a bus company which runs services in Hartlepool – saying it “disregards” the needs of disabled people in the town.
Iain Wright made the comments during a Parliamentary debate on access to transport for disabled people in which he said bus service provided by Stagecoach in Hartlepool was out of date, in need of modernisation and was out for profit at the expense of its passengers.
He said Hartlepool’s disabled community, particularly the visually impaired, were affected.
But Stagecoach hit back, saying Mr Wright’s comments were “wrong” and said he should apologise to the hard-working drivers who would find his comments “offensive”.
Mr Wright told the House of Commons: “A reliable, inclusive and, above all, practical public transport system is vital for my constituents and would allow those with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life.
“It would also encourage greater use of bus services. I have to be blunt, however. Hartlepool does not have a public transport system – not really.
“It has a private sector monopolistic service, run by Stagecoach.
“It disregards choice, quality and provision of service and concentrates on profit at the expense of passengers, especially those with disabilities.
“That is why the company can boast of a 17.1 per cent profit margin in its UK bus operations. It is also why it can abolish evening and Sunday services in my constituency.”
Mr Wright said he had written to the company to encourage audiovisual announcements, and more low-floor boarding devices so the more vulnerable are not left isolated, or even unable to travel to work.
But a spokeswoman for Stagecoach said bosses had invested £3m in a smartphone app to support visually impaired people before, during and after their journeys on buses, along with ongoing training and other schemes to help disabled people.
She said Stagecoach has the lowest fares of any major bus operator. She added: “Mr Wright’s misinformed claims about the standard of bus transport provided by Stagecoach bear absolutely no resemblance to reality and he has his facts wrong on many counts.
“Our team of hard working bus drivers and support staff will find his comments offensive and deserve an apology.”