LOCAL councillors have hit out at First Dorset’s revised timetable for the No 40 bus between Bridport and Yeovil, calling it an “absolute dog’s dinner”.
The bus provider took over the route from Damory when it was awarded the school contract by Dorset County Council (DCC), but a replacement service was provided by the county council for the school holidays when Damory deregistered the route in July.
Bus users raised many concerns over the replacement service, but First’s published time- table seems to be even worse.
Starting on Monday, September 18th, the service will no longer go to Yeovil College or serve Netherbury and Broadwindsor – the village’s only bus service – as well as missing out Bridport Community Hospital and Gerrards Green in Beaminster.
It will only run from Monday to Friday, with no Saturday service, and the first bus from Bridport to Yeovil at 6.20am will arrive at 7.29am – which is too early for many commuters to Yeovil who used to get the 7.30am bus from Bridport. The first bus in the other direction – from Yeovil to Bridport – is not until 10.05am.
It also causes problems for students at Beaminster School, with no school bus back to Mosterton and Crewkerne at the end of the day; there is a school service running from Bridport at 2.55pm which arrives at Beaminster School at 3.18pm, but does not continue to Mosterton, Crewkerne or Yeovil.
First will be taking over the service from the county council next week, after it was previously thought it would be lost.
Cllr Daryl Turner, county council cabinet member for natural and built environment, said: “I am pleased that we have managed to find a solution for this service to operate and ensure access to Bridport and Yeovil on weekdays for the majority.
“I encourage residents of Broadwindsor and Gerrards Green to explore options available through community transport, which may better fit their needs.”
Cllr Jacqui Sewell, county councillor for Broadwindsor, said the new route was an “absolute disaster” for the village.
She said: “There are many, many people that rely on the bus to get to Beaminster for work, doctors appointments and shopping, but also a number of school children use this bus to get home from Colfox Academy.
“I cannot remember any consultation about this proposed new route with myself or the parish council.”
A spokesperson for Bridport Town Council said they had not been formally notified of the bus changes but will work with DCC to assess the impact of the changes and continue to look at future community bus options.
Cllr Ros Kayes, county, district and town councillor for Bridport, said that the new service was like “replacing a decent ladder with a pair of wobbly stilts” and totally unfit for purpose.
She said: “Why, when the Damory route was becoming commercially viable, has First cut out the hospital run, which was negotiated by myself and the town council a number of years ago as an additional necessity?
“It also seems ridiculous that they are not going to Gerrards Green.
“Just a simple thing: people who live in social housing are less likely to have cars – only 50 per cent of families in Court Orchard own one.
“Does it not make sense therefore that they are more likely to need/use buses? Is it not the case that these are often the most socially isolated and vulnerable groups whether by age, income or disability?
“The principles of the county council’s holistic transport review are rendered completely farcical by this. What on earth has Dorset Travel been negotiating? It is like replacing a decent ladder with a pair of wobbly stilts and totally unfit for purpose. It’s an absolute dog’s dinner.
“I am calling on both First Group and the county council to step up to the mark and hope they will agree to meet with me and other councillors concerned to see if we can sort this out.
“I am also trying to support Beaminster Town Council in setting up a community solution.
“For us in Bridport, the fact that the bus no longer goes to the hospital is completely unacceptable. It is as though First just want to do their own thing – and I would encourage the public to complain to them directly.
“The 40 as run by Damory was commercially profitable and there is no reason at all that First can’t run such a service.
“The community bus proposal in Bridport that we are currently working on would include the hospital run, but that is months away from becoming a reality.
“If First is worried about money, they should talk to the CCG (Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group) to get financial support for a hospital run.”
A spokesperson for First Dorset said: “The original service 40 was run on a commercial basis by Damory, but unfortunately, they withdrew it from the end of July. Since then, Dorset County Council has replaced this lost route on a temporary basis.
“The council has now enlisted our help to replace some of the service between the school transport routes that we currently operate in this area.
“Due to our commitment to providing the school services, we are unable to replicate the timetable exactly to fit around our current operation.
“However, between 9am and 2pm Monday to Friday, the council has recommended the most effective routes and areas to serve throughout the day, which we have agreed to do, ultimately keeping this route from being lost entirely.
“We hope that the revised timetable will still offer enough capacity for the majority of the regular passengers to make their desired journeys.
“We encourage residents of Broadwindsor and Gerrards Green to explore options available through community transport, which may better fit their needs.”
Beaminster Town Council was contacted for comment but was unable to reply by the time of going to press.
The timetable can be seen at www.facebook.com/firstindorset
Bridport Town Council is meeting on Tuesday, September 19th at 7pm in the town hall when the public open forum will be dedicated to a discussion on public transport in Bridport.
Cllr Sarah Williams Leader of the Town Council says: “The town council is looking at the options for a local community bus service and as part of this project we would be interested to hear from people on their experiences of public transport in Bridport.”
The town council’s public open forum, which can last up to 45 minutes, takes place at the start of the council meeting.
Bridport Town Council is encouraging people to come along and have their say on public transport in Bridport.