Stagecoach blasted for 'cynical' bus consultation timing

Stagecoach is being criticised for consulting its passengers on timetable changes for just six days over the New Year period.

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 5:40 pm
Stagecoach's public consultation is being criticised. Photo by David Philip

Stagecoach is proposing timetable changes to its services in the Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough area due to take effect on Saturday and Sunday, February 22 and 23.

Passengers have the opportunity to take part in a survey about the proposed changes, but the survey only opened on Monday, December 30, and will close this Sunday (January 5).

Cllr Jim Hakewill, Kettering council member for Slade and Northamptonshire County Council member for Rothwell and Mawsley, wrote on Facebook: "Quite ridiculous timing for a consultation over Christmas and New Year...Cynical timing?"

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From left to right, Kay Griffin, Chantelle Griffin, and Judith Curtis. All three are regular bus users and did not know about a survey on proposed timetable changes.

The survey opened after Christmas but the six days for passengers to have their say included New Year's Day bank holiday when buses were not running and when many people were off work.

Speaking to the Northants Telegraph, Cllr Hakewill said: "I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a national bus company should even dream of having a consultation when most people's minds are on other things.

"I shall be writing to them to ask for a two week extension for people to have a chance to respond."

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said: "It's a very short consultation period and I'm grateful to the Northants Telegraph for giving it maximum publicity."

Most of the services affected are early morning or late evening journeys and Stagecoach says it is removing the journeys because they are not well used.

When asked about the timing of the public survey, Stagecoach said: "We are planning changes to bus services around the Midlands from 22 and 23 February (Saturday and Sunday) 2020 and would love to hear our passengers views on the proposals.

"We have asked for any responses for our survey to be given by the January 5 so we have time to look at the results and register the proposed changes by the planned February start date.

"We would love to get things running more smoothly for our customers as soon as we can."

However, some bus passengers waiting at Kettering's Horsemarket today (Friday, January 3) said they had not heard about the proposed changes or the survey.

Chantelle Griffin, 25, was waiting for the bus with her nan, Kay Griffin, 72, and her great-aunt and Kay's twin sister, Judith Curtis.

All three said they were regular bus users and were surprised to hear about the proposed changes.

Although she's a regular bus passenger, Chantelle said the service is "unreliable" and she has recently got her provisional licence so she can learn to drive.

She said: "If you can afford it, just drive. They're (buses) so unreliable."

Judith said she uses the bus to travel between Finedon and Kettering and thought some of the changes would affect her, she said: "We didn't know anything.

"I haven't seen anything, you won't know (about the changes) until you get on the bus."

Her sister Kay said: "I can't see why they need to change it. It could really affect you."

When asked if the timing of the survey was an issue, Kay said: "That's it, absolutely. If you hadn't said, we wouldn't know about it."

Cllr Hakewill said he was also concerned because the public consultation was only available online.

He said: "A lot of people who might rely on buses cannot drive, they don't have a car, and they might have less access to the internet.

"Stagecoach need to engage with people much better because they are a public service."

He said one option would be for Stagecoach to hire a public venue to allow people to speak to the company in person.

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said: "I would support having as long a consultation period as possible.

"I very much hope the consultation is publicised on the buses so that bus passengers are aware and letting them know how they can respond and I hope there is the ability to respond not just online.

"I would hope there are other means of responding."

Cllr Hakewill said he would copy Mr Hollobone into his letter to Stagecoach asking for an extension to the consultation period but added: "My experience with the MP is lots of polite emails but not much action."

Phil Medlicott, managing director at Stagecoach Midlands said: "We are aiming to improve the reliability of services in February and want as many people to provide their comments as possible.

"We want people to see this as a positive change to help combat the worsening congestion we see on our roads.

"The journeys which we are considering removing carry only one or two passengers. While we don’t want to inconvenience anyone it doesn’t make sense to run buses capable of carry around 60 people for so few."