Bus firm gets a rough ride from passengers
A petition signed by more than 1,250 local residents has demonstrated the strength of opposition to bus cuts in Berwick.
Petition co-ordinator Jeanette Beresford handed over the document at a Northumberland County Council meeting held in the Jubilee Club on Highcliffe, Spittal.
However, Borders Buses bosses who were also in attendance said it was against company policy to accept petitions as feedback.
It was a suitably acrimonious end to a fiery discussion in which local residents voiced their anger at Borders Buses’ new timetable, introduced on Monday.
The changes include the axing of evening services to Newfields, Spittal and Highcliffe. It means the last journey to serve those areas is the 5.27pm from Ramparts Business Park.
The B3 service has also been withdrawn, with parts of the area it covered now served by an enhanced Berwick hoppa, service 67 and 267.
Borders Buses commercial manager Sharon Morrison attempted to explain that the changes were driven by low passenger numbers which meant some of the services were not commercially viable.
However, her firm delivery was met with disapproval from many in the audience.
She was also involved in a heated exchange with Coun Georgina Hill in which she called the member for Berwick East a liar. It happened when Coun Hill reported a conversation she had with Ms Morrison when the cuts were first announced. Ms Morrison quickly apologised and withdrew the remark.
It set the tone for what proved to be a difficult evening for Borders Buses.
Mrs Beresford questioned the company’s motives in taking over Perryman’s Buses last year.
“Perryman’s ran the service for 40 years and Borders Buses has run it into the ground in 18 months,” she remarked.
Coun Gregah Roughead, member for Berwick West with Ord, added: “The public consultation has been an utter sham.
“The changes are no use to the town. The new routes seem to have been designed by someone that doesn’t know how Berwick works.”
Ms Morrison responded: “We don’t want to slash bus services. If the majority of people in this room used the service, we wouldn’t be here.”
Data showed that an average of only eight customers per night were using the B1 service to Spittal between 5pm and 10.27pm.
“We do genuinely want to stay here and serve the area but we need people to use the bus,” said Ms Morrison.