The new 292 service hadn’t been easy to negotiate but we finally got a timetable. The new service began on Monday and reports from passengers had been favourable. It was all going well until Friday afternoon. The last bus back from Kidderminster to Ludlow was like nothing I had ever experienced. The bus was driven at high speed, overtaking everything on the Bewdley Bypass. At Cleobury Mortimer, it began to get very difficult. The driver was shouting that the service didn’t go to Ludlow. A row with passengers escalated but we did get to Ludlow 15 minutes early. There the driver capped off this extraordinary journey by shoving a woman in the back as she got off the bus. The passengers were not to blame for this situation.
Throughout Shropshire, and across the country, minibuses and cars are ferrying people to GPs, hospitals, shops and to meet their friends. The benefits are huge. Community transport services in Shropshire make more than 100,000 passenger journeys a year, with passenger spending averaging £30 a trip. The of community transport benefits in reducing social isolation and promoting wellbeing are substantial. But a threat is looming. A new interpretation by civil servants of EU regulations may make many community transport schemes unviable. That will harm rural and vulnerable communities across Shropshire.
The cost of on-street resident’s permits is to rise from £50 to £100 a year. Shropshire Council says the scheme will improve parking opportunities for residents in restricted areas. Parking is at a premium for residents in central Ludlow but one of the limitations of this scheme is that it does not consider the needs of town centre businesses. The new scheme, which also is also likely to restrict permits to one per household, is expected to be implemented by the end of 2018.
This has been a tortuous process. The new timetable is not quite finalised. But we know enough tonight to publish the details of the replacement service between Ludlow and Kidderminster that will begin next Monday, 16 April 2018. The 292 service will run seven trips each way on schooldays, maybe six trips out of term and on Saturdays – a few details need to be finalised. First bus out of Kidderminster will be 7.30am and the first from Ludlow at 8.30am. The run time will be shorter and will bypass the estate roads at the Kidderminster end. Hooray!
I felt physically ill when I sat down at Shropshire Council’s Performance Management Scrutiny Committee last Wednesday. We were there to yet again to argue against a damaging rise in parking charges in Ludlow from next September. It was the second time the matter had come to scrutiny. The last meeting looked like a stitch up. I knew the moment that I walked in at this meeting we were due a repeat. And it proved to be so. We are get charges until 8pm on the streets in the town centre and they will be set at £1.80 an hour, the highest outside Shrewsbury. There is no justification for this.