Blow as bus routes face axe

Friday 22 August 2014 Updated: 24/08 20:52

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PLANS to axe a bus service to the town’s leisure centre have been branded a ‘blow’ to the community.

As of September 1 no buses will stop at the Abbey Stadium as part of a raft of changes to routes in the borough.

It comes after Worcestershire County Council reduced its subsidies by £1.6million across the county, forcing Diamond to look at entirely funding some of the routes or cancelling them completely.

Coun Bill Hartnett, leader of Redditch Borough Council, said: “Of course news of any bus cuts is not positive for the community but this is a blow as it is an affordable way for people of all ages wanting to get fit and active to get to our leisure centre.

“We do hold free swimming sessions at the Abbey for under 16s and over 60s, some will particularly rely on affordable transport, so this latest cut may have an impact on this.”

He also encouraged those who used the route to write to Diamond requesting the re-introduction of the service.

Among other routes to go under Diamond include the 26 which runs from Stratford to Redditch, the 70A to Imagination Street, the 142 from Marlbrook to Redditch, as well as the 143 direct bus from Redditch to Bromsgrove’s Princess of Wales, because they are deemed no longer commercially viable.

The 50 to Batchley and 63 to Bentley Close in Southcrest will also cease after the county council pulled out of funding the routes, while the 55A and 56A will be replaced with a new 55H and 56H circular service which will also serve Webheath and the Alexandra Hospital.

The 64 will change to the 64A circular which will include Lakeside and a new fully commercial 62 route will also be introduced combining the 60 and 61 services - but will no longer serve Sainsbury’s or the Abbey Stadium.

A Green Bus will also follow this route, while Redditch Borough Council will provide a 53 service to replace the current 63 as well as a 65 to Abbeydale and a school bus from Callow Hill to Tudor Grange Academy Redditch.

Stephen Haselden, group business development and strategy manager for Rotala which owns Diamond, said: “This time last year we did our own network review and people gave us responses on what they wanted to see in Redditch.

“Worcestershire County Council decided to do its own review and there was no point making the changes until the council decided what they had to do.

“We looked at our review and tried to fit that in with what they were proposing.”

He added it was important to the company to provide a service residents wanted which included a direct route from Studley to the town as well as better service for Webheath.

Coun John Smith OBE, cabinet member for highways, said it was a difficult decision but the council listened to everyone’s views and the vast majority of passengers are still able to access public transport.

The traffic commissioner needs to approve the changes before they can formally go ahead, while ticket prices on Diamond’s commercial services are not expected to rise but some tendered routes may increase.

More information will be available on www.diamondbuses.com, Diamond’s Twitter page, Facebook, and timetables will be displayed at bus shelters.

Visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/bustimetables for more information about the changes.

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