Hope on restoration of late night bus service

By Harriet Ernstsons 22/03 Updated: 23/03 09:14

Buy photos » Residents are urged to check the bus timetables over the festive period. s

LATE night buses could be resumed in Redditch after First indicated they may be willing to step in and fill the gap.

But bosses of the bus company warned they would only operate an evening 57/58 service if it was commercially viable.

At a meeting called by Coun Rebecca Blake on Wednesday (March 21), residents asked the First Group to look into the possibility of taking over the service after it was axed last month by Diamond Bus, which did not send a representative.

Mike Chawner, chairman of Matchborough West Community Group, said: "The bus is a lifeline in every way, shape and form for residents to get to the hospital and into town.

"A lot of people, especially the elderly, want to go to further education, want to go out for an evening out or want to go to different groups but they cannot do it."

Others such as charity boss Joe Baker and Winyates resident Tony James spoke out about the impact the lack of evening bus services was having on their lives, organisations and livelihoods.

Pat Witherspoon, chair of Redditch Older People's Forum, said concerns over anti-social behaviour, which was the reason given by Diamond for the withdrawal of bus services in the evening, could cause the elderly to stay indoors, especially if there was no bus service for them to use.

But Redditch District Insp Ian Joseph said they had worked to reduce the number of incidents affecting buses, with a number of arrests made including prolific offender Ryan King, who the Standard reported earlier this month had received an ASBO in part for his behaviour towards bus drivers.

But he added the withdrawal of the evening services meant the full impact of the operation could not be seen.

David Hibbs, general manager for First in the Wyvern area which includes Redditch, said: "If we can do it, we will do it. Our interest is to run services but we can only run them if they are commercially viable. Hopefully we can look at it and maybe we can come up with a solution."

Coun Blake said the meeting had been important to allow people to explain to bus companies the impact the changes were having.

"We will keep up the pressure for an evening service and I was encouraged by questions from First about what times and frequency people would be looking for."

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