Tories 'furious' over cuts to Patcham buses

Cllr Lee Wares, ward member for PatchamCllr Lee Wares, ward member for Patcham
Cllr Lee Wares, ward member for Patcham
Councillors from Patcham and Hollingbury are '˜furious' that a subsidised bus route for the area has been reduced from an hourly service to every two hours.

Conservative councillors said the cuts to the Number 56 service - recently awarded to The Big Lemon - will leave ‘the community marooned’.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said: “We fought for years to get this service and are furious that it has been reduced from a one-hour to a two-hour service. There was absolutely no consultation with residents or councillors, there were no warnings in committee papers and there was no indication this might happen."

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He said he only found out about the changes 'when residents told us it had been reduced to a two-hour service on the Patcham and Hollingbury loop'.

The Big Lemon managing director Norman Baker, with founder Tom DruittThe Big Lemon managing director Norman Baker, with founder Tom Druitt
The Big Lemon managing director Norman Baker, with founder Tom Druitt

Cllr Carol Theobald said: “This is a hopeless situation that is causing huge distress amongst residents. We have some of our most vulnerable residents now having to take four hour round trips to travel a mile to visit their doctor or to go shopping. The council have marooned a large part of our community that will only reduce the quality of life and increase isolation.”

Cllr Lee Wares said: “The Big Lemon has taken the taxpayers’ money for this subsidised service and is now being paid to deliver half of what the previous company did.”

Norman Baker, managing director for The Big Lemon, said: "The 56 is a supported service so ultimately the routing and frequency are matters for the council to decide rather than The Big Lemon. The problem has been that the timetable is very tight and the reduction in service beyond Hollingbury ASDA to Patcham is an attempt to make the timetable more reliable. Our natural instinct is always to increase frequencies and journey opportunities rather than reduce them so the reduction in service to Patcham is something we would rather have avoided.

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"We want to provide the best possible service for all our passengers, including those in Patcham, and I am in discussions with the council as to how that might best be achieved. We are open to all suggestions and quite prepared to change the timetable, but ultimately I need to have a timetable that is workable and people can rely on, and the council needs one that it can afford to support. I am very happy to meet the local ward councillors if that would be helpful."

A Labour spokesperson said: “Council transport officers are in discussions with The Big Lemon in relation to these timetable changes.”

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