Hartlepool MP Mike Hill says lifeline bus cuts need to be reversed

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has accused local bus operators of putting profit before passengers.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 06:00 am
A Stagecoach North East bus in Hartlepool.

Mr Hill says fare increases and service cuts have had a ‘disastrous’ effect on the town.

His comments coincide with Labour launching a new £1.3billion policy to reverse cuts to 3,000 bus routes in England and Wales and provide free travel to pensioners and the under-25s.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill. Picture by FRANK REID

The party also plans to bring bus services back into public ownership.

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Mr Hill said bus services provide a lifeline to people living in more remote parts of the town, and are essential for getting people to work, the shops and health appointments.

But Stagecoach, who run most bus services within Hartlepool, said they are investing in their fleet and urged Mr Hill to work with them.

Mr Hill said: “All around Hartlepool there are roads dotted with bus stops, with precious few or no buses stopping there.

“They are important local services and a lifeline for many and yet all we see from the bus companies are increased fares and fewer services.

“This is having disastrous consequences for our town and its residents.

“Sadly for far too long all we have seen is profit put before public needs, unprofitable routes cut, especially in rural areas, timetables limited and reduced so people can’t get to work or appointments on time, bus wars happening up and down the country so big providers squeeze out lower cost competitors, our transport terminus hardly ever used because of cost motivation rather than providing a seamless link between bus and train to towns and cities beyond Hartlepool.”

And Mr Hill said even in built up areas of the town elderly residents feel cut off following service changes.

He added: “The simple fact is that deregulation has not led to improvement and our bus services are on the decline.”

Steve Walker, Stagecoach North East managing director, said he welcomed Labour’s pledge to inject new money into bus services.

He said: “Stagecoach North East is committed to providing the best service we can, covering as wide a network as possible whilst limiting the cost on the public purse.

“We must work together with local authorities to provide a sustainable network that matches the needs and desires of our communities.

“We encourage our elected members to focus on prioritising road space for buses to ensure they offer consistent and reliable journey times.

“We have also continued to invest in our fleet; ensuring vehicles are as modern as possible, offering free on-board WiFi, contactless payments and real-time journey planning via the Stagecoach Bus app, in an effort to ensure the needs of our customers are met in their overall journey experience.

“In some cases where funding has been withdrawn by local councils we have reintroduced services to as many estates as possible, to provide a sustainable evening service without any subsidy.

“We would urge Mr Hill to continue working with us to ensure buses are able to operate reliably across the region and we will continue to reinvest in improving services.”