Villagers in County Durham are claiming that their community has been ‘cut off’ after Arriva changed their local bus services.
More than 50 residents of Quarrington Hill, a small village a few miles south-east of Durham City, turned out for a hastily-convened public meeting to voice their anger after Arriva imposed changes which left them with only one bus service – and even that misses out most of the village.
They left their local MP in no doubt about the depth of their disgust. "It’s the worst bus service in living memory,” said one. "It’s disgraceful,” said another. “We’re the forgotten village.”
Though not exactly confronted by a baying mob, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP still felt compelled to agree. She described the way Arriva treated communities as ‘shocking’ and ‘absolutely disgraceful’.
"With no thought and no consultation, they have cut off this village. People can’t get to the doctor’s, the shops or to and from work”, she said.
"I understand they might have to make cuts, but they should be consulting with local communities about how to make those cuts in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily inconvenience people."
The MP now plans to hold meetings with Durham County Council and Arriva to discuss the issue.
It’s a familiar story, of course. And Arriva’s reasons for withdrawing the service are equally familiar – low passenger numbers, increased fuel prices and a cut in fuel duty rebate meant it had ceased to be commercially viable, they said.
But people seem as upset about the lack of consultation as they are with the lack of a bus service. And that’s a familiar one, too.
I don’t suppose anyone is keeping count of the number of sudden changes or service reductions imposed by operators nationally, but there must be hundreds during the course of a year. The amount of copy they generate in the local press is enormous, too.
Bus companies clearly make people very, very angry when they do this, and it makes you wonder if there isn’t somehow a better way of doing this, some way which will keep the customer on-side and still deliver the savings they need.
As they say on all the best A-level exam paper’s, discuss…
What is obvious, though, is that with many bus operators feeling the pinch at the moment - much like their passengers – I’m sure there’ll be many more stories like this one.