‘SAVAGE’ cuts to local bus services should be suspended immediately, says Saddleworth Parish Council following changes by First Manchester.
The alterations introduced on October 27 saw the removal of the 180 service linking Manchester and Oldham to/from Greenfield on Sundays or in the evenings.Also, Monday to Saturday daytime buses have been reduced from half hourly to hourly and will only run to/from Oldham, not Manchester.
Services have been replaced by bus 84 between Oldham and Manchester, for additional journeys between Uppermill and Oldham and for journeys to/from Huddersfield on Sundays and public holidays.
However, the changes have been met with anger by councillors and local residents after they were implemented by First with no consultation.
Saddleworth Parish councillors voted unanimously at their October meeting to write to ‘urge First Group and all relevant parties to immediately suspend the changes to the 180 and 184 bus service timetable’.
Proposing the motion, Cllr Max Woodvine said: “Greenfield will suffer from the reduced services and it will have a massive impact on people trying to get to work or school.
“If it is about money, First should cut the services during the day when it is quieter but not in the busier mornings or evenings.”
Cllr Alan Belmore said: “For people living in Greenfield these are savage cuts and will cause havoc for people who rely on the services every day.
“Using the bus can be a more affordable option than a car or train so getting rid of that creates economic problems as well.
“It is an outrageous decision by First to make these changes with no consultation.
“They should be able to cope with peaks and demand in their services, just as rail companies do, and adjust for that.
“The first step has got to be immediate suspension of the changes so the people who rely on the services still have access to them then as a Parish Council we can work with the bus companies to get the best solution.”
Cllr George Hulme added: “It is appalling how people have been treated with a lack of consultation on this.
“It is not an acceptable way for a private company to operate. They are clearing putting profit before the needs of people in the community and letting taxpayers pick up the pieces.”
But Cllr John Hudson commented: “I have been on that bus and sometimes there’s only two or three people on it. We can’t have a bus every five minutes just because we want one.”
However, Cllr Graham Sheldon said: “This service over the years has not been particularly well-used during the day time so I can understand it being reduced or removed – but not services in the early morning or tea time when people need to get about.
“Councils are trying to get people to use the buses and other public transport so we need bus services there or we can’t use them and then the roads will become more congested.”
The cuts have also been criticised by Richard Knowles, Former Oldham Council Leader and TfGM Vice Chair, who is meeting First Manchester on October 31 with counter-proposals.
“I hope they will recognise they have made a serious mistake and reinstate Greenfield’s 180 bus service at least to Oldham,” he said.
“These savage bus cuts leave many residents stranded and restrict access to the Peak District National Park for many people without cars.”
Mr Knowles is calling for First Manchester to:
• Retain twice-hourly 180 bus from Greenfield but to Oldham only and offer free transfer tickets for journeys beyond Oldham
• Retain hourly evenings and Sunday 180 bus from Greenfield but to Oldham only and offer free transfer tickets for journeys beyond Oldham
• Revert to hourly evening 84/184 bus from Uppermill to Manchester
• Curtail one of the three times hourly daytime buses from Uppermill to Manchester at Oldham town centre.
Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has also written to First Bus about the changes to services, saying ‘many of our communities will be left behind’.
She said: “This will profoundly affect many of my constituents at a time when we want to be encouraging more people to use public transport.
“It is unacceptable that the current operating companies are intending to pull out and only provide buses on profitable routes.
“I am also disappointed that lesser served parts of my constituency, such as Diggle which only has an hourly service, have not seen an increase in the frequency of their services.”
A First Bus spokesperson said: “As part of our service changes, we have introduced a revised network in the Saddleworth area.
“The review reflects wider changes to simplify the Oldham – Manchester corridor (from the current 83/180/184 to 83/84) and to improve reliability for example between Greenfield and Oldham on 180 and Huddersfield and Oldham on 184.
“We do appreciate the impact of these changes on our existing 180 customers.
“As part of the changes we have needed to take into account passenger demand as well as the opportunity of high-frequency bus and tram interchange at Oldham (for those wishing to continue their travel into Manchester) and the existing 350 service for those passengers travelling during evenings and Sundays between Greenfield and Oldham or Uppermill to connect to new service 84.
“As with any changes, we will monitor service data and customer feedback.”