doc

COMMUNITY leaders have raised concerns about plans to axe bus services in a review by Merseytravel.

Birkenhead MP Frank Field and Oxton Liberal Democrats spokesman Allan Brame have revealed their dismay that key services face the axe such as the 154/155 and 118/119 bus routes.

Mr Field wrote to the chairman of Merseytravel Councillor Liam Robinson asking him to set out the basis on which the proposed changes to each service are being made.

He has also raised concerns about the revised timetable for the 492 and 495 Woodside to Noctorum service which proposed changes see the bus operate hourly and have an extended to Arrowe Park Hospital during evenings and Sundays.

Each of the proposed changes have been vetted by Merseytravel to ensure more people have access to a bus service but they are welcoming views of those who use these services.

Mr Field said: “Clearly Merseytravel is under pressure to make cuts due to another massive reduction in government funding.

“But my concern with the proposed cuts in their current form is that they would make it much more difficult for some of Birkenhead’s most vulnerable residents without a car to travel across town, or to hospital.

“I will be pushing Merseytravel to amend its proposals with the interests of those residents very much in mind.”

Operated by A2B Travel the 154 bus connects the estate off Woodchurch Road to the shops in Prenton, St Catherine’s Hospital and Birkenhead Bus Station.

However Merseytravel argue that Tranmere is served by the 38, 2 and 487 bus, Holm Lane is served by the number 10 and Woodchurch Road has 16, 17, 41, 42, 413, 414, 471 and 472.

Mr Brame said: “The 154 bus is an absolute lifeline for many pensioners living on the Holmlands estate.

“We have been inundated with heart-breaking stories from elderly residents who depend on this bus and who simply don’t know how they will cope without it.”

“It is not just a matter of managing tasks such as shopping and attending medical appointments,”

“This bus is a social service – the driver and passengers are on first-name terms and everyone looks out for neighbours.

“For some people, it is the only human contact they have all day.

“Many of the residents have lived on the estate since it was built in the late 1960s and are now in their 80s or 90s.

"If we don’t persuade Merseytravel to think again, these pensioners will be totally isolated.”

The bus shake-up began in May last year and has already covered St Helens, Sefton and Liverpool.

Working as part of the “Bus Alliance” - a formal partnership with Arriva and Stagecoach - Merseytravel is aiming to create a “simpler, clearer and more direct network that can help encourage more people to take the bus.”

Cllr Robinson told the Globe: “We do appreciate people’s concerns about the proposed changes to services in Wirral as part of our bus network review, however, they are proposals at this stage and nothing has been finalised.

“That is why we want people to take part in the consultation, so that we can be sure that we have received their thoughts and views, and they can be considered.

“Our aim is to try and ensure that all residents within a built up area are within 400m of the bus network.

“While some services may be removed in the final proposals, there will be alternative provision available that can get people from A to B, although they may need to change service along route.

“We are making changes to the bus network to make it simpler and easier to understand, after decades of piecemeal changes.

“Another key element of the review is to ensure that the increasingly limited funds we have available for supported services - those services which are publically subsidised by Merseytravel via the local authorities as they’re not commercially viable – are used to best effect.

“In some areas of the country, local authorities are dealing with the Government funding cuts by opting to remove all their supported services leaving communities with no bus service at all.

“We are not doing that, working innovatively with bus operators to find alternatives.”

Proposed plans will be available for view and comment on online at www.merseytravel.gov.uk/busreview