A NEW Yellow Buses service linking Christchurch with Bransgore has been branded “a complete waste of time” by a town councillor.
Cllr Gill Jarvis says she believes the Yellow Buses route 21 link has been “set up to fail” claiming that its timetable is “unworkable”.
The bus started running earlier this month as a trial with Christchurch Town Council working in conjunction with the Yellow Bus Company to see how they can improve services for residents to reach outlying villages.
The councillor for Stanpit and Mudeford said that after studying the timetable she believes the route will prove unhelpful to local people.
Cllr Jarvis said: “I have told the mayor of Christchurch and the town clerk that this bus route is not worth the paper it is written on.
“There are only three buses a day and if you take the first one from Christchurch you either have to get a return bus seven minutes later, or face a wait of two hours.
“The last bus back from Bransgore is at 1pm which means the service is of hardly any use to anyone, really.
“I believe the route has been set up to fail so the bus company can come back to the council and say ‘no one is using it’. If the timetable had been thought out better, a lot of people would be glad to take advantage of it.”
Route 21 began on 4th November and runs between Christchurch, Somerford Estate, Sainsbury’s, Burton and Bransgore in both directions three times per day. The buses start from Christchurch High Street at 10.15am, the next bus is at 11.45am with the last one at 13.45pm.
From Bransgore they begin at 8.30am with the next bus at 11am and the last at 1pm.
At a recent meeting with Christchurch residents, BCP Council chief executive Graham Farrant agreed the town was “cut off” from many outlying villages and that services between them needed to be improved.
But Cllr Jarvis says she has been told BCP Council does not have the budget needed to do this, adding: “This is not fair on Christchurch residents, especially the elderly. In my area I have seen them struggling to walk long distances to get to a post office and shops in Purewell as there are no buses.”
Earlier this year Cllr Jarvis, together with Cllr Grace Polson, carried out a survey of residents in Stanpit and Mudeford, which led to a petition signed by 60 people calling for urgent improvements to their bus services.
One pensioner who says he is suffering from the lack of a bus service from Stanpit is retired businessman Peter Dudley.
He told the A&T: “When I moved here from London one of the reasons I chose my house was because there was a bus virtually outside so I was reassured that as I grew older and could no longer drive I could still get around.
“But six months ago they just took the bus away.”
Mr Dudley says since then he has been “virtually housebound” revealing: “I can no longer drive and have absolutely no means, apart from a taxi, of getting to the doctor, hospital, or even the shops.
“I now have to rely on an 87-year-old friend who can drive to do my shopping. The amount I pay in rates is horrendous and one of the services I should be receiving as far as I am concerned is a bus.
“I would be quite happy with just one or two a day and paying for my ticket. I think it is a total disgrace that we do not have one at all.”
He added: “I imagine they took the bus away because it is unprofitable but other routes are not, so as far as I am concerned the company should take the rough with the smooth.
“I am not just angry for myself but for all the other elderly people in Stanpit who are in the same position. What I say to the councillors is: what if this was your parents being treated like this?”
Simon Newport, commercial director of Yellow Buses, told the A&T its services had to be “viable”.
He said: “We introduced Route 21 after the previous operator dropped its subsidised service. We receive no council funding and have to make it profitable.
“To do so, 65 people have to use the service each weekday. The latest figures show we are carrying 61 – which we consider a success with the service having only been operational for five weeks.
“It was most certainly not set up to fail. After listening to customer feedback, the 21 was designed to take people from Burton and Bransgore into Christchurch and Somerford, enabling them to shop at Sainsbury’s and Stewarts Garden Centre.”
Mr Newport added that if the passengers numbers increased, a boost in frequency might follow, but ultimately the service must be viable.
“We would be happy to meet with Cllr Jarvis again to discuss the situation,” he said.
“With regard to Stanpit, we do not provide the main service through that area but have put together a proposal that is dependent on subsidies being available. That is currently with BCP Council and Christchurch Town Council.”