Last month I had held a public surgery in Clifton Campville, this was shortly followed by some concerns being raised over the future of the No82 bus service.
I jumped on route myself to see just how many places the bus was serving, the number of customers and what struck me most was that the bus was the only public transport servicing many of the smaller villages of my constituency but also for some of those taking the bus, it was one of the few times they spent chatting with other villagers. Unlike many bus routes, this one was rather enjoyable and very social! I've been liaising with Staffordshire County Council and bus operators in the area to try and continue this service in some form.
Staffordshire County Council feel unable to continue funding this service fully as the money could be better spent assisting many other people across the county, rather than a small number of people using this route sparingly. I understand the County Council has approached the parish councils of the villages the bus route serves to see whether they could band together with funding to keep the route going but to date this has not been accepted.
From the bus operators perspective, although they recognise the route is vital to people living in the villages, it is not financially viable, many people using the route do not pay full fare (have a pass) and even if all regular users were paying full price, this would not meet the costs it takes to hire the bus driver and cover the fuel on a regular route.
I have discussed other options with them, shortening the route or days and times the service runs, changing the route so it goes from Tamworth through the villages and ends at Ashby road, rather than having an empty journey to begin with or to see whether it is possible to band out to other villages in the area. I have also liaised with operators from Warwickshire and Lichfield to see whether buses serving those areas can branch out and cover some of our villages. The bus operators are however open to working with residents and parish councils over other funding options.
I have also liaised with Ministers from the Department of Transport on the issue, to see how we can continue funding and serving the most rural parts of the country to ensure links to town centres are not lost. I have also been engaging with Housing, Business and Community Ministers to see how we can go about bringing and maintaining important services in rural communities such as health, financial and retail services. Progress is being made in this area but it is a slow process.
It is vital that people can still access the town centre and I understand residents are banding together to explore car share options. Until that time, if you need a ride, try contacting the Community Transport Service on 01827 66632