Swindon Advertiser – First published Thursday 4 June 2015
South Marston shocked as bus link axed
Stagecoach has withdrawn the service which ran between Swindon, Stratton Park, South Marston, Bourton, Shrivenham, Watchfield, Longcot, Fernham and Faringdon
A VILLAGE authority discovered its only bus link to vital amenities was being axed days before termination, despite the plan being mooted months earlier.
On Monday, Stagecoach withdrew the number 65 service which had run between Swindon, Stratton Park, South Marston, Bourton, Shrivenham, Watchfield, Longcot, Fernham and Faringdon. Now South Marston Parish Council has hit out at the poor communication from Stagecoach and Swindon Borough Council which had partly subsidised the route with Oxfordshire County Council. It said months of discussions had taken place between the two before the service ended.
“It’s a great pity it’s happening and a great pity neither Swindon Borough Council nor Stagecoach gave any notice of it happening,” said parish council chairman Colin McEwen.
Stagecoach said the service was cut after Oxfordshire revealed it would withdraw its subsidy last year and Swindon Council declined to make up the shortfall. Oxfordshire said it made its decision because of an exceptionally low number of passengers and, after months of talks, finalised the process on March 19.
The parish council acknowledges the low passenger numbers, but has Colin said they felt let down by having communications, which have left it with no time to make alternative arrangements for those now stranded.
“We understand that the service was underused compared to the size of the subsidy,” he said.
“We are looking to see whether there are alternative arrangements that might be made for the older people who rely on the bus to get in for shopping, but at the moment it’s not clear what can be done. There may be alternatives like a once-a-week service, though I don’t know whether that’s feasible. Given that we didn’t have any notice of it, we haven’t been able to investigate it fully.”
He said the bus route’s fate only reached him last week when a resident mentioned it to the council.
Stagecoach said it has informed passengers of the withdrawal through leaflets, public relations, its website and Twitter, but also formally informed the local authorities in April.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham & Dorcan), the cabinet member for sustainability and transport at Swindon Borough Council, said: “The decision to end the 65 service was a commercial decision made by Stagecoach due to low passenger numbers and because Oxfordshire County Council decided several months ago to remove its subsidy.
“It is the responsibility of Stagecoach to inform customers and communities about service changes, as they have done in the past. The service is not commercially viable and Swindon Council can’t afford to make up the shortfall in money when it would be cheaper to pay for taxi trips for those affected. However, we know that this service provides a valuable link for the community and we will be discussing potential alternatives to provide some sort of service at the cabinet meeting on June 17.”
Stagecoach has presented the council with alternative timetables which could be provided through South Marston if funding were available. The company said it started discussions with the council’s transport team about the termination in 2014.