The 292 bus service between Ludlow and Kidderminster will be suspended from 9:30am to 3:30pm tomorrow. This is because the operator, Diamond Bus cannot cope with a 2.2 mile diversion along a very decent ‘B’ road. It is also because the councils that fund the route are prepared to pay a heft subsidy for its operation without exercising any control over how it is operated.
Neither Shropshire Council nor Worcestershire Council have issued any information saying buses will not run. Neither has Diamond. Pathetic.
This row has blown up in the last three days. There is a need to close the A4117 at Far Forest between Cleobury Mortimer and Bewdley on Friday 7 February from 9:30am to 4:00pm. This is for emergency road repairs. That’s fine because the repairs are needed. Council officers declared that the diversion route was “unsuitable”. That’s nonsense.
I have since learned that the claim the route was “unsuitable” originated from Diamond. The 2.2 mile diversion on a 30 mile route would add ten minutes to the journey. Rather than put in place an emergency timetable, Diamond said it will not run the service at all during the roadworks.
Diamond is contracted by Worcestershire County Council to run the service with a public subsidy, around half of which is paid by Shropshire Council. Although on leave at present, I proposed an emergency timetable this morning. It’s simple. Just allow one and a half hours for the journey instead of one hour. It works out well.
But Shropshire Council is not in control of this contract. It must go begging to Worcestershire County Council to get any changes. Worcestershire had not replied by the end of the day. I have had to rely on the energetic efforts of the Shropshire Star to confirm that the service will be suspended.
Worcestershire is not worried about the cancellations. The 292 will run between Worcester and Bewdley as normal tomorrow. But the Shropshire leg of the journey will be cancelled during the roadworks. That’s selfish. It’s pathetic.
There is no point my going to Shropshire Council’s political leaders to complain about this. Steve Davenport the cabinet member for transport has shown little interest in buses. And he is currently beleaguered by the pothole crisis. His deputy, Simon Harris, once had a remit for buses. But he was recently shunted into the sidings and now only deals with rail. There is absolutely no political interest in buses at cabinet level. When did any cabinet member last get the bus?
The roadworks are necessary. No argument. But cancellation of three of the six daily services between Ludlow and Kidderminster is not.
Shropshire Council must get a grip on this contract. We need this service. It is very important for people in Ludlow, Clee and Cleobury Mortimer.
But we can’t keep playing second fiddle to Worcestershire County Council which seems only interested in services on its own patch. It is time for Shropshire Council’s cabinet to get a grip.
I am not holding my breath.