CONTROVERSIAL changes to bus services in the Basingstoke area are to be reviewed after a company chief admitted the public should have been better consulted.
Andrew Dyer, managing director of Stagecoach South, faced the wrath of around 50 bus users at a meeting on Monday.
As previously reported in The Gazette, there was uproar in February after Stagecoach overhauled the network in the town, resulting in many users being left worse off.
The Gazette reported on several campaigns in various areas where customers had suffered the loss of vital bus services or faced a longer wait.
On Monday, members of the public had their chance to give their views to Mr Dyer – and he promised to carry out a review of the network, and admitted the company could have consulted better on the changes.
Mr Dyer was invited to attend a meeting of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s scrutiny committee to discuss the changes to services after a motion was tabled by South Ham Labour councillors Colin Regan and Sean Keating at a full council meeting.
A total of 22 people spoke at the meeting, raising concerns about the changes which were introduced on Stagecoach’s commercial services in Basingstoke on February 16.
Great-grandmother Jackie Riches, of Woodbury Road, Hatch Warren, Basingstoke, told the meeting: “We can’t get to Brighton Hill without going into town and back.
“It doesn’t matter where we want to go – you have got to get on two buses. I have lived here for 35 years and I have never known such lousy transport as we are getting now.”
Alexandra Abbott, of Buckland Avenue, South Ham, Basingstoke, told the meeting that she can only catch two buses an hour after the changes, adding: “The Berg Estate is mostly elderly people and quite frequently the buses we get are double decker buses which are difficult to get on and off.”
Chineham councillor Martin Biermann criticised the bus company for relocating the drop-off point of the new jazz 7 bus which serves Chineham to the National Express coach lay-by, in Churchill Way.
He said: “This isn’t a particularly travel-friendly location. Its design means that there is no seating available, and seating is important to elderly travellers.”
Cllr Regan added: “Anyone coming out of Sainsbury’s, in the town centre, with shopping can no longer get a bus home. They have to cart all their shopping to the bus station or get a bus to the bus station.
“Buses are supposed to be serving people, and you can do that and make money, I would say. If you consulted people, we could have sat down and agreed this and pleased most people, and that is still on the table.”
Mr Dyer has vowed to carry out a full review in the autumn, after acknowledging that Stagecoach should have handled the changes better.
He said: “I accept that in this case that we didn’t do it (a public consultation) soon enough. Can I guarantee an improvement on a particular route? I can’t guarantee that, but what I can guarantee is a review of what we did in February to see what further changes we can make.
“As far as the changes are concerned, the analysis we did showed us that the majority of customers were using buses to travel from the part of town they live to into the town centre so the network was designed to give the vast majority of customers the best possible service.”