Petition calls for ‘fresh consultation’ on Biggleswade bus cuts

There will be reduced services in Biggleswade and its surrounding areas. Credit: Julian Vaughan.
There will be reduced services in Biggleswade and its surrounding areas. Credit: Julian Vaughan.

The battle to save Biggleswade’s buses rages on, as a new petition in defiance of the cuts is gaining popularity.

Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) announced that as of September 30, there will be a reduced timetable for the Centrebus 85/85A Biggleswade town service, and the 188/190 Centrebus routes between Sandy, Blunham, Everton, Gamlingay, Potton, and Biggleswade.

It is argued that the changes, which see the town service start later and finish earlier, will particularly affect elderly and disabled people and commuters, so Julian Vaughan, chair of the North East Bedfordshire Labour Party, has started an online petition which has already gained 327 signatures.

Mr Vaughan said: “We’re not going to stop fighting these cuts, so I’m going to keep pushing and pushing. I’m going to make it very uncomfortable for them [CBC].”

The petition calls for “a fresh and thorough consultation on the proposed cuts so the community can have their say”, “a halt to the bus cuts until this has taken place” and “a sustained publicity campaign by to promote bus use”.

Mr Vaughan said the council is using a Passenger Transport Survey from 2016 to help justify the reduction, which was originally used when services were cut at the end of 2016/ 2017. However, he argued that some of the survey was conducted online (as well as on paper), and was unfair to elderly people who may have been less likely to see it.

An additional survey via the telephone was carried out in 2016, but Mr Vaughan highlighted that 48 per cent of those surveyed didn’t use the buses, claiming it was “hardly representative”.

He also told the Chronicle that the telephone survey in 2016 stated that the bus service was “unaffordable”.

Mr Vaughan alleged: “That’s a leading question. No-one’s then going to then put, yes let’s keep the buses.”

Biggleswade resident Natalie Doig said: “I’m visually impaired and so cannot drive. I rely on the buses to get around safely. I will not be able to catch a bus during the dark winter months.

“Think what it must be like for a woman who is visually impaired walking in the dark for over a mile?

“Taxis are expensive and unreliable.

“The impact is huge – it’s like taking away our independence.”

The 85/85A had previously been supported from developer funding from the Kings Reach and Potton Road developments, which has ended. The 188/190 were deemed by CBC to be poorly used and not economic.

Councillor Ian Dalgarno, executive member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “As part of the consultation on our Passenger Transport Strategy we ran a 12-week public consultation on the proposals.

“This was available online and as paper copies, in fact we had over a third of the consultation responses on paper copies.

“We also specifically promoted the consultation on the buses to ensure we heard from bus users. Seventy per cent of the consultation responses were from bus users.

“In addition to the public consultation, we also carried out a telephone survey to ensure we also heard from a representative sample of our community including vulnerable groups.

“As it was a representative sample; it is not surprising that less than half of those we spoke to didn’t use buses.

“They are all council tax payers though and as such have a valid say in how we spend their money.

“We welcome public feedback and views on our services. We will of course consider and respond to the petition when it is submitted to the council.”

Biggleswade Town Council confirmed that it has also written to CBC asking it to postpone the service changes.

To sign Mr Vaughan’s online petition, visit: https://www.change.org/p/central-bedfordshire-council-stop-the-bedfordshire-bus-cuts-631444ac-a489-4105-a6c7-5ccb9b5e1b23?recruiter=57832953&recruited_by_id=60dfa240-1905-0130-88d9-3c764e049b13&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard