A bus service that Stagecoach says will be withdrawn on July 30 “due to low passenger usage” has provoked a political storm.
The operator says route 36 serving Eye and Thorney into Peterborough is no longer viable and says passengers can access alternative services.
But their decision was attacked by Peterborough MP Paul Bristow who urged the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson to “put your hand in your pocket and help save the 36-bus serving Eye and Thorney.
We need to keep a direct service between Thorney & Eye but there is also a bigger issue on buses. We only get half the funding from government compared to some areas – we need to change that. In meantime sign the petition 2/3https://t.co/3F2Ntj9uAi
— Andrew Pakes (@andrewpakes_) July 8, 2023
“You get millions for transport from government, and you want a new tax for bus services.
“Work with me – let’s press Stagecoach – and put together a subsidy package that will save the 36!”
That was on Thursday but the following day Andrew Pakes, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Peterborough, revealed that not only had he launched a petition to save the bus service but was also meeting with Dr Johnson that day to discuss it.
He said Dr Johnson had given “a clear commitment to work with residents to find a solution on the 36 bus”.
On Saturday Mr Pakes, who is co promoting a petition to save the service, met supporters who turned up to ride the threatened service from Thorney and Eye.
“We need a new deal for buses – but to start with let’s keep a service going,” said Mr Pakes.
“Thanks to everyone who took part in the mass bus ride this morning about plans to axe the 36 which links Thorney and Eye.
“Yet again Stagecoach are cutting an important bus route with little or no consultation with residents. It is clear for many reasons why we need a direct link.”
You can sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/call-for-a-rethink-on-plans-to-cut-bus-services-in-thorney-eye
He said his meeting with Dr Johnson on Friday was the third time he had spoken to him following residents contacting him about Stagecoaches plans.
Mr Pakes said the mayor wanted to thank “everyone to standing up to Stagecoach” and had given a “personal commitment to work with residents to find a solution – including visiting Thorney soon.
“Now, let’s make this happen”.
Dr Johnson said: “Stagecoach insists that service 36 is no longer commercially viable.
“This assessment is obviously hugely disappointing, and my focus is on finding a solution to ensure residents are not left isolated.”
He said Combined Authority officers, along with his lead member for transport, deputy mayor Anna Smith, were exploring a range of “potential options” to support affected communities.
The mayor promised an update once viability and the financial impact of the options had been explored.
He promised that “we will leave no stone unturned to support those impacted: my team and I remain in ongoing discussions with bus operators and Peterborough City Council”.
Thank you @andrewpakes_ for your collaborative and inclusive approach working with myself , @anna4labour and @CambsPboroCA officers and most importantly the local residents to support and find a solution for the 36 and the wider Peterborough bus network https://t.co/6fW31f5cqG
— Mayor Dr Nik Johnson (@NikJohnsonCA) July 8, 2023
Mr Pakes added: “We need to keep a direct service between Thorney and Eye but there is also a bigger issue on buses.
“We only get half the funding from government compared to some areas – we need to change that. In meantime sign the petition.”
Mr Johnson said his recently announced ‘bold vision for bus reform” was aimed at creating an affordable, reliable, convenient, and sustainable bus network.
He hopes for cross party support to achieve it.
Mr Bristow, however, is not impressed by Mayor Johnson’s bid to save the 36 service.
“Our Mayor finally speaks out on the 36 bus,” the MP tweeted.
“It would appear he is doing a lot of thinking and consulting.
“He needs to accept my offer of a meeting – work with me on a subsidy package – put his hand in his pocket and save the 36 bus for Thorney and Eye.
“He plans to tax us all more for bus services. This will leave a bitter taste in the mouth if he can’t save the 36 bus.”
In a separate video posted to Twitter, the MP emphasised the need to retain service 36 which he said was essential for many needing to go to Eye to see a doctor or for those children attending school.
“It is not good enough just to cancel it,” he said.
Put your hand in your pocket @NikJohnsonCA and help save the 36 bus serving Eye & Thorney. You get millions for transport from government and you want a new tax for bus services.
Work with me – let’s press Stagecoach – and put together a subsidy package that will save the 36! pic.twitter.com/BVWtkRGXbg
— Paul Bristow MP (@paulbristow79) July 6, 2023
“I am calling on the invisible mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough- this mayor apparently for the whole of the county (we never see him in places like Thorney) – it is time to get his hand in his pocket and subsidise this bus service.”
Mr Bristow said the Government awarded the Combined Authority millions on transport “but it is all being spent in Cambridge. That’s not good enough.
“Put your hands in your pockets Nik Johnson and save the 36 bus.”
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