HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has presented a petition to the House of Commons calling for the re-instatement of bus services in town.
Mr Wright handed over the petition, signed by more than 400 local people, to Parliament to show the strength of feeling against the lack of subsidised public transport locally.
It comes after Hartlepool Borough Council axed £287,000 from the supported bus service budget for routes that operators including Stagecoach, Arriva and Tees Valley Coach Travel, saying they are are not commercially viable.
The petition calls for Parliamentary intervention to “immediately reinstate the services and then to secure a financial settlement and a regulatory framework which provides a comprehensive, reliable and cheap system of bus transport in Hartlepool”.
The document calls for Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to work with Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, local residents, the council and bus operators to help get the services running again.
Mr Wright – who is concerned businesses could close and people could be left isolated as a result of the cuts – also wants new rules on bus regulations so that “people’s needs come first rather than private profits”.
The MP acknowledges that any u-turn is unliklely, but hopes the petition will highlight the strength of feeling against the cuts across Hartlepool.
He said: “The idea that we are going to get a re-instatement of services as a result of this petition is not going to happen.
“But I don’t think passengers in Hartlepool are very well served by the current transport model.
“I want to be able to change the manner in which local services are provided.
“The current model doesn’t lend itself to comprehensive, cheap and reliable services.
“I want to see re-regulation in the interests of passengers, not a free-for-all for private profits.”
Mr Wright wants to see a level of competition for bus operators in Hartlepool, so large firms can’t
He added: “In order to have the profitable routes, we need socially-important routes as well.
“We need services to go from places like Greatham, Elwick, Dalton Piercy, the Headland and Seaton Carew from first thing on a morning to last thing at night.
“Otherwise it will essentially mean added pressure on for instance the Town Hall Theatre – how can we provide entertainment if people can’t get there?
“We need to look at the wider context.”
He said the response to the petition had been “fantastic”, and added: “I am very grateful for their efforts and hopefully the response from the Secretary of State for Transport will provide some additional support so that passengers in the town can receive a better bus service.”
Robin Knight, commercial director of Stagecoach North East, said: “We were deeply disappointed that the network was so badly affected by the funding cuts and understand that Mr Wright is lobbying for national support.”
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