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Cambridgeshire bus users say delays force them to have 13-hour days

Passengers have voiced concerns at the state of rural bus services that make them late for work and leave them facing 13-hour days.

The women, who live in villages to the east of Cambridge, say that they have to endure long waits, delays, traffic and changes to timetables after their bus was cut and the route incorporated with another.

Ross Barton, commercial director, Stagecoach East - says he is ready listen to the views of bus users in Cambridgeshire
Ross Barton, commercial director, Stagecoach East - says he is ready listen to the views of bus users in Cambridgeshire

The duo, who asked to be referred to by their first names only, do not drive or own a car and rely on rural public transport to get to work in the city. Their problems have been highlighted by the Cambridge Area Bus Users group (CABU) which stands up for the interests of passengers, working with users and providers for better bus services.

Julie, 58, from Stetchworth, leaves her house at 6.45am to pick up the 7.02am bus in the village at the start of its route. Wendy joins her a little later along the journey, in Six Mile Bottom, at 7.14am.

Quite soon along the route, every day, they run ahead of the schedule, so they stop for five minutes or more. A little further on they are still ahead of schedule so a further stop of five or even 10 minutes, then the bus makes a loop and slows down.

“By this time the traffic going into the city has built up, and we often get stuck, sometimes for as long as 15 to 20 minutes,” said Julie.

“And so it goes on until a journey that should have taken an hour takes an hour-and-a-half, and often 1 hour 45 minutes. I’m lucky as I don’t start work until 9am but Wendy is often late for the start of her work at 8.45am.”

The same thing happens all over again on the way home.

Julie said: “I get on the bus at the station and quite often you are left waiting. It is supposed to arrive around 6.15pm but sometimes I’ve been waiting at 6.55pm in the cold, rain and snow. It’s also pitch black in the winter. We leave and it’s pitch black and we return home in the pitch black.”

A spokesman for the bus users group added: “This tale of two women and a bus is one of the worst we’ve come across, but there are similar tales across greater Cambridge with merged services.

“Bus companies and passengers need each other, they need to talk to each other about what’s best. ”

Julie added: “All I want is a reliable service that gets me to and from work at a reasonable hour.”

Cambridge Area Bus Users secretary Richard Wood added: “Cuts and compromises which might make sense on a spreadsheet, don’t often make sense on the road.

“We want to help people like Julie and Wendy by working with bus companies and local government to have services that really work for all.”

Ross Barton, Stagecoach East’s new operations director, spoke to members of the CABU at its AGM on Saturday, and promised to listen to a host of concerns put forward by members of the audience.

A Stagecoach spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately the number 17 was not attracting enough passengers to make it viable. The council subsidised it for a time, recognising the importance of rural routes, then we continued to run it without subsidy for a further period. For the past year we have combined this route with the number 3, to provide a lifeline for former passengers, though we do understand this makes for a longer, less convenient journey for those involved.

“Our new senior management team is looking at ways to improve the existing network. We are listening to the needs of bus users, businesses and the community because we believe that effective public transport is an important solution to the problem of congestion in and around Cambridge.”

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