In the UK, buses are used for twice as many journeys as trains and from thousands more stopping places across the country. However, in Watford many residents have been in touch with Dean Russell MP regarding unreliable bus services.
In Hertfordshire, bus services are 95% commercial and therefore Dean has held multiple community engagement sessions with Arriva to give residents a direct line of communication with the bus operators. Issues arriving include, but not limited to: unreliable services, buses being re-routed without warning, services cancelled indefinitely including to any supermarkets from Abbots Langley, multiple buses now required to travel to essential destinations such as the Hospital. As an unfortunate consequence, many residents use alternative transport methods which in turn will reduce customer numbers and make the services unviable.
Importantly, as there is no legal requirement to do so, there has been no consultation with residents for any of the local service changes. Notice is only given after the service has been changed or cancelled by checking the Intalink website.
The Government have invested £3 billion as part of the Bus Back Better Strategy and Dean has been in regular contact with Hertfordshire County Council to understand how the £30 million from the Strategy has been invested in local services. The additional £60 million to cap fares at £2 from January to March 2023, is also welcome, with a further £150 million as part of the Covid support package for bus operators.
However, after hearing that the changes to local bus services had taken place without consultation by the residents who would be affected, Dean has raised constituent frustrations in a Parliamentary Debate.
During the debate, the Minister made clear the expectations from the Government that operators should provide the service that they advertise and it is unacceptable when they do not communicate with passengers when the service cannot be provided. The Minister confirmed within the Bus Strategy there will be a new Passenger Charter which will ensure users receive certain standards of service including punctuality, information and redress.
After the debate Dean said, “I recognise the challenges the bus services sector is facing, and I welcome the Government investment into improving bus services as part of a long-term strategy. The recent investment to subsidise bus travel over the coming months will directly support residents of Watford, easing cost-of-living pressures. I will continue to liaise with the County Council and bus operators to ensure the bus networks meet the needs of local people.”