As many residents are aware, Stagecoach recently consulted on some proposed changes to their bus services across North East Derbyshire, which will come into effect on 26 January 2020. Thank you to everyone who got in touch with Stagecoach as part of that consultation and who raised their concerns, issues and comments.
Like so many changes to bus services in recent years, the majority of the proposals are sadly for service reductions as a result of continuing decline in demand in bus usage across Derbyshire (and which is happening in most places across the country also).
During the period of the consultation, and since it closed in November, I have been in regular communication with Stagecoach to highlight the community’s concerns about these proposed changes. This included meeting with Stagecoach along with a number of local Councillors from Killamarsh and Eckington, liaising with them to highlight residents’ concerns, monitoring the status of the proposals and, just in the last few days, raising further concerns about the proposals that they have come forward with, particularly on the Killamarsh service.
Stagecoach have now published their intended changes and, as is expected (and is extremely disappointing), there are a number of changes which will negatively impact on local communities in North East Derbyshire.
Firstly, there is a little bit of good news, with a couple of the proposed changes now being dropped. The proposal to reduce the frequency of the 51 service will not go ahead. Likewise, the proposed change to the 43 service to extend to Newbold in Chesterfield has also been dropped which will not elongate the time to get from Chesterfield to Dronfield. These are positive wins and ones which are welcome for all of the communities who were going to be impacted.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the proposed changes are happening which is extremely disappointing. Whilst I am grateful that we’ve had a couple of small wins on this, I am disappointed as a whole with Stagecoach’s decision to go ahead with most of the reductions. The proposed changes to the 70, 70A, 71 and 72 services have received a particularly large amount of concern from residents in Killamarsh and Eckington. I have queried Stagecoach’s reasoning for these changes and have been informed that both services have lost around 10% usage over the last two years alone.
In the last few days, when the changes were announced, I went back to Stagecoach and asked them to reconsider on the drop off points in Sheffield too for the Killamarsh and Eckington services. Unfortunately, they have already registered the new service changes, so further changes are not now possible.
Bus services have also been a difficult subject and there is no easy answer on the matter. Bus companies like Stagecoach are clear that the networks are not sustainable in their previous forms because demand for the services continues to decline. On the other side, reductions in services mean that large villages and towns across North East Derbyshire are left with no, or minimal, services. And there is a ‘chicken and egg’ element to this which often creates a spiral – if there isn’t a functioning bus service throughout the day then that encourages more and more people to get cars or change how they get about, reducing demand for buses further. Whilst we have been able to get some wins on stopping reductions over the last couple of years – we had success in Holymoorside earlier in the year and Stagecoach’s abandonment of the proposals to reduce the 51 are very positive – we still see service reductions on a fairly regular basis.
As a community, we are going to have to think more about how we try and improve the situation here. Stopping service reductions like Holymoorside or the 51 are small and very important wins but the wider, and likely continuing, challenge regarding demand decline needs more thought. I would be keen to hear from residents with interests in this who want to get together to talk more about what we do in the future. As an MP I don’t have the power to direct companies to run services (nor is it sustainable for local authorities to simply throw lots of money at services where demand is low) but I will keep trying to find a way through this and, along with your local Councillors, to get involved where I am able.
In the meantime, I encourage residents to take a look at the information below to browse the new timetables for specifics, available here: http://www.derbysbus.info/times/tt_65_120.htm.