'Fundamental flaw' claim over rural buses plan


Staff reporter (Chester First)

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to terminate some rural bus services at the park and ride has a “fundamental flaw”, according to a bus company.

The plan, included in Cheshire West and Chester Council’s transport strategy document, is for rural buses to terminate at park and ride sites outside the city before making passengers board a shuttle bus into the city centre.

Among villages affected by the plan are Waverton, Tattenhall, Malpas, Tarvin, Kelsall and some Boughton and Vicars Cross.

But one of the bus companies affected by the plan, Helms of Eastham, contacted the Leader to say the proposal was not possible.

This is as they point out the Transport Act 1985 states private bus companies can choose any route they wish unless there is a traffic order, limiting what goes on the road.

The company, which runs the 41 service from Chester to Whitchurch, said it has been contacted by concerned bus users who did not want the changes to take place.

They had to take the step of putting up notices in their buses, saying their service was not changing.

John Lee, operations manager at Helms of Eastham, said: “There is a fundamental flaw because of the 1985 transport act.

“I do not know how it has got in [the document].

“The only way people can stop us going down a road is through a traffic order or if a bus can’t physically get down a road.

“In the 2000 act there are provisions to talk to operators to fine tune things but the operators do not have to play ball.

“They [the council] have had this brainstorming session and left it in the document without giving it proper thought.

“For me it is obvious they can’t do that. There is no legal basis where this could happen.”

Mr Lee also said he thought the council would have spoken to the bus companies about the proposal, but said the council did not approach them.

He added: “We are as baffled as everyone else. We get invited to meetings to talk about things but for this to appear in the public without talking to us is amazing.

“It has certainly wound up our passengers. We have had to put up notices on our vehicles to allay their fears.

People rely on these services, they do not like disruption. We all accept life does not stand still but this is a real major change for people.”

Tarvin and Kelsall councillor, Hugo Deynem, said he had been contacted by a number of residents to express their fears and he had made enquiries on the issue.

He said: “There are a considerable numbers of challenges which need to be overcome before this can work.

“This proposal seems to be unworkable.

“The consultants put it in as a proposal to be looked into further and I think they will come to the conclusion it will not bear fruit.”

A spokesman for the council said no company would be forced to change their route but “selected” services may still be moved. He said: “There is no suggestion that any private company operating under the provisions of the Transport Act would be forced to stop its rural service at Park and Ride sites.

“The council’s transport strategy proposals did raise the possibility of ‘selected’ services ending at Park and Ride sites as a potential way of reducing the number of buses going into the city centre.

A working group of members is to review every aspect of Chester’s Park and Ride provision and no decisions on this issue would be taken until its findings have been considered.”

Cllr David Armstrong who first brought up the issue at a council executive meeting, said: “I suspect this will be quietly forgotten about over a period of time.

“All of the proposals in the transport strategy document will cause controversy.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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