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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Firm fails to turn up for Barrow bus pass protest meeting

PARENTS will have to wait to learn how Stagecoach can justify increasing children’s bus passes to adult prices after the company failed to attend a meeting in Barrow yesterday.

Fourteen parents turned up to hand Stagecoach a petition containing 2,343 signatures opposing its decision to axe the children’s megarider bus pass, only to be disappointed when the company did not appear.

The meeting was called by Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock after an outpouring of anger from parents, who have baulked at paying 50 per cent more to send their children to school each month.

Mr Woodcock opened the meeting by praising parents for their campaign and expressing his regret that he had been informed a “diary clash” had prevented a Stagecoach representative from attending.

“I called this meeting to give you the chance to put your views directly to Stagecoach,” he said.

“Now, I’m afraid to say that it looks like Stagecoach has declined to be at this meeting, which I think is really unwise of them.”

Risedale parent Noel Matthews said it was “disgraceful” for the Stagecoach Group, which operates bus and rail services across the UK and North America, to blame its decision to abolish the monthly pass and force children to travel on adult fares on cuts to travel subsidies and higher fuel costs when last year it recorded a profit rise of 25 per cent.

The Stagecoach Group’s latest annual report, published in April 2011, said it made an £106m operating profit.

“They’ve put a 50 per cent increase on parents and I think this company should be shamed into giving parents that cheap fare back,” he said.

Barrow parent Caron Harris said she was bitterly disappointed Stagecoach was not represented at the meeting because parents wanted the opportunity to discuss the decision and negotiate face-to-face.

“We’re not asking for free travel,” she said. “We would have been quite happy had Stagecoach looked at a compromise, such as a five-day megarider pass just for the school days.”

Mr Woodcock, who is the shadow transport minister, acknowledged the climate for bus companies had become harder since the Bus Services Operators Grant was cut by 20 per cent on April 1 this year.

However, he said that did not absolve the company from its responsibility to offer an affordable means for parents to get their children to and from school each day, especially in areas where there were no transport alternatives.

“I do recognise that overnight it’s been made much more difficult to keep services profitable, but they do have choices in the way they do things and it’s simply not right to load it all on to the pockets of parents,” he said.

Mr Woodcock ended the 45-minute long meeting by proposing that he and the parents write a joint letter to Stagecoach outlining what was discussed and asking the company to set a time, date and venue when it would be available to meet with parents.

Councillors Ray Guselli, Kevin Hamilton, Jack Richardson and Ken Williams also attended the meeting.

No-one was available for comment at Stagecoach yesterday afternoon.

Have your say

Whilst hopeful that this situation can be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of users and Stagecoach alike, criticism of Stagecoach for not attending requires clarification.

Mr Woodcock states that "it looks like Stagecoach has declined to be at this meeting, which I think is really unwise of them".

Using the words "it looks like" implies uncertainty; of being unaware of what was actually happening.

The flow of emails I have now had presented confirms that Mr Woodcock's office was fully aware that Stagecoach could not attend. Mr Woodcock conceded that the invitation was at very short notice. However, this does not appear to have been made clear at the meeting with parents, who, along with the Press were guided into uncertainty by the MP who did not state what had actually happened and that Stagecoach was willing to attend, but needed more than one working day's notice. This information was concealed and not presented.

To state that it was "unwise of Stagecoach not to attend" is similarly misleading.

Why did Mr Woodcock not criticise "the Council" for not attending, as he invited "the Council" in his Evening Mail article, 18th April. Only 2 out of 29 Labour members were in attendance (1 of these being his assistant) yet 3 out of 7 Conservatives were there.

Was it therefore not also unwise for the Council not to have attended as allegedly invited?

An attempt at point scoring by Mr Woodcock, but which is on the wrong bus.

What is now needed is for Stagecoach and those involved to see if there is any common ground and a means of resolving the problem; not concealing information to fan the flames!

Posted by Just the facts on 12 May 2012 at 06:38

The problem is, they have total monopoly on the service in our area. They can charge what they like and there is nothing anyone can do about it because there is no other choice. I rarely use the bus service luckily, but the prices are shocking to say the least. I do think children's passes should only be used during school days and they should stay at half the adult price, including for students currently in further education. It is all about profit and nothing to do with providing a service dedicated to it's customer base. About time some competition was brought in, they would soon change their prices then.

Posted by BB on 29 April 2012 at 22:50

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