A CAMPAIGN has been launched to save a “vital” bus service in South Ham after Stagecoach announced it is to cut the route in February as part of major changes to the network.

At the beginning of December, Stagecoach South announced that it is planning to make changes to the Jazz 3 service which runs through the Berg Estate and South Ham, connecting residents to the town centre.

Under the plans, the Jazz 3 bus, which currently operates every 10 minutes, will access the town through Worting Road instead of Winchester Road, leaving Stagg Hill, part of Sandys Road, Hill View Road and the Berg estate without the service.

The Berg estate will instead be served by the hourly 4/4A service, which will run through Brackley Way, Woodroffe Drive, along Buckland Avenue and into Worting Road from Monday to Saturday, with no service on a Sunday. The changes are set to come into force on February 16.

Jennifer Ball, of Hulbert Way, organised the save-the-bus petition after learning of the cuts from leaflets handed out at the bus station at the beginning of December.

The 78-year-old grandmother has been drumming up support knocking on doors. A copy of the petition she left in McColl’s off-licence, in Buckland Avenue, has already generated more than 200 signatures.

Mrs Ball told The Gazette: “A lot of people didn’t realise that Stagecoach is intending to take the service away.

“A lot of the residents are elderly, and the bus service is a lifeline for people who may lose their independence and feel isolated in their own home. Just in my road, there are so many elderly people who struggle and use the bus for shopping.

“Stagecoach has been very clever to put the news out prior to Christmas, and to say this is a public consultation is ridiculous. I need the bus for essential shopping and as the bus station is right by the train station, I can nip into Sainsbury’s and I also use it for the Crown Heights medical centre in town.”

Colin Regan, borough councillor for South Ham, said: “Both South Ham and the Berg Estate have a high number of elderly and disabled people who are reliant on the bus services. We will be expanding the petition and putting leaflets out to the homes affected, and informing people.”

Andrew Dyer, managing director for Stagecoach South, said: “We are changing our network in Basingstoke following extensive research and customer feedback.

“Our plans will mean that most passengers in Basingstoke will see an improved service, with either faster trips into town, better frequencies or both.

“However, sadly we cannot please everyone when we change bus services. We are currently in discussions with Hampshire County Council to finalise how their supported services complement our commercial ones. Once we have jointly put the finishing touches to our plans we will be able to release timetables.”

* Do you have a view on the bus timetable changes? Have your say by writing to The Letters Editor, The Gazette, Pelton Road, Basingstoke, RG21 6YD, emailing editor@ basingstokegazette.co.uk, or by using the comment facility below.