Northamptonshire bus users face anxious wait for route news

A Centrebus bus
A Centrebus bus

Uncertainty surrounding bus services used by school children, students, workers and shoppers has been continuing as the future of some routes remains unresolved.

Leicester-based Centrebus had been running nine services using 14 buses out of its Corby depot in South Folds Road.

In August, the privately-owned company announced the closure of the depot scheduled for Saturday, October 26.

Centrebus has been operating in Northamptonshire since September 2010, when the company took over the former Judges Coaches site.

Bus routes affected include services between major towns travelling through their surrounding villages and to neighbouring Rutland and Leicestershire.

As the deadline draws nearer bus users are waiting to hear if the closure will affect their services.

Routes where an operator is yet to be decided are services 8 (Corby – Kettering via Geddington) and 18 (Corby – Thrapston - Raunds).

Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) has put out to tender the routes incorporating the current service 16 (Kettering – Thrapston – Raunds).

All but one journey from the current commercial service 16 will be included but times of arrivals and departures are yet to be decided.

Services 8 and 18 are operated under contract to NCC primarily using developer funding.

As well as conveying school pupils on some services, Centrebus operates one school bus – from Bishop Stopford School in Kettering to Redhill Grange, Wellingborough, and services 59 (Welford – Market Harborough) and 60 (Welford – Northampton).

Services 59 and 60 are operated under contract to the county council, primarily using parish funding.

NCC will be going out to tender for a new operator for these routes.

Already secured is the Rutland Flyer (RF1), with the operation of service RF1 (Corby – Oakham – Melton Mowbray) to another depot along with services 12 (Oakham – Stamford) and 146 (Oakham town service) that do not run in Northants.

The remaining route, service W8 (Wellingborough – Bozeat), has been registered to operate commercially by a new operator.

But some parents have been left with uncertainty about the services used by their children.

Mum Clare Hobbs has two children who both use buses to travel to school from their home near Cranford.

Her daughter Isabel, 11, who has just started at Bishop Stopford School in Kettering, has been catching the commercial bus from the stop near to their farm.

She said: “I pay £700 a year for Isabel to catch the bus, my other daughter Mimi gets a special needs bus to her school.

“I want Isabel to have the option to catch the bus, for her to have her independence.

“My husband, who grew up here, caught the school bus every day and we wanted Isabel to catch the bus too.

“If she can’t catch her bus she would have to walk to the next stop three-quarters of a mile away.

“Times are different - there’s more traffic and there’s some dodgy people out there.”

Teacher Helen Mallett, who lives in Islip, has three children with her middle child, Emily, attending Latimer Arts College in Barton Seagrave.

She said: “We chose for Emily to go to Latimer because of the upheaval caused by the change from the three to two-tier system.

“We were lucky enough to get a spot and chose it because of the bus service.

“It’s £2.50 for each journey and it’s been fine - it goes from Kettering - Barton - Cranford - Woodford - Islip - Thrapston and on to Raunds.

“The 3.48pm is very full bus with people from Tresham and Southfields and Latimer.

“One of the reasons we chose Latimer was because there was a later bus so she could do an after-school activity and still get home.

“It can only hit the most vulnerable - the older people and those who can’t drive. Rural poverty is a real thing.”

Matt Evans, Centrebus managing director, said: “It is with great regret that we have had to announce the closure of our Corby depot.

“The depot has been making a loss for the last two consecutive years, largely due to a number of factors which are outside of the company’s control.

“The most challenging of these being: the continual reductions in both local and national government funding, falling passenger numbers and increases in direct operating costs such as fuel, labour and parts.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff and customers for their support and loyalty over the past nine years.”

Cllr Jason Smithers, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for highways and place, said: “We are pleased that we have been able to come up with alternative proposals in quite a tight timescale and I’d like to thank all of the people involved in making that happen.

“Further details will be released once we have them and everything has been finalised.”

Tom Pursglove, MP for Corby and East Northants, met Cllr Smithers and officers from Northamptonshire County Council on Friday (September 6) to discuss the issue.