STUDENTS protesting against cuts to bus services will hand in a petition to Basingstoke civic leaders tonight.

More than 500 students at Queen Mary’s College have signed up, and the petition will be handed over at the full meeting of Basingstoke and Deane Council in the Civic Offices.

Members of the newly-formed QMC Labour Students group collected 578 signatures in just three days, saying teenagers have been badly hit by the reductions, which came after Hampshire County Council agreed to cut its subsidy to loss-making services. As a result, bus operator Stagecoach has had to revise its timetable, with no services running after 9.30pm.

Group member Janis Ellis, 18, told The Gazette: “We heard a lot of people were unhappy with the bus services as they made people late for lessons and can cause real problems for people who live further away.

“Considering we collected that many signatures in just three days, we think this shows how unhappy people are. It is not just getting to college that is an issue.

“With the buses not running very late it means people have to get taxis back, which are more expensive, or walk back, which can be dangerous. We want Stagecoach to see just how much their cuts are hurting people.”

Labour borough and county Councillor Jane Frankum, who is collecting a borough-wide petition against bus reductions that is getting close to 2,000 signatures, praised the students. She said: “I have been saying for over a year now how these cuts will affect young and old, and this goes to prove that.”

Andrew Dyer, managing director of Stagecoach South, said: “When routes or journeys are not carrying enough passengers to cover their costs, the local authority must make tough decisions on those that they are able to pay for, and they decided that some of the journeys we previously ran under contract to them, on this basis, could no longer operate.”