Hastings councillor’s campaign for better bus service

Cllr Batsford boards the bus
Cllr Batsford boards the bus

A councillor travelled with passengers all day on the number 7 bus in Hastings to highlight concerns over cuts to the service.

Cllr Andy Batsford boarded the number 7 bus last Thursday morning (June 25), chatting with residents who signed his petition, which is calling for a better service.

The bus used to run an hourly service but at the end of April its frequency was reduced, meaning it now only runs every two hours.

The number 7 is operated by Stagecoach under contract to East Sussex County Council, which specifies the route and timetable of supported services.

Cllr Batsford boarded the number 7 at 10.10am at Hastings train station, which takes in Ashford Way and Park Crescent. It then changes into the 29 serving Manor Road, the 27 in Priory Road and finally out to Pett as the 347.

He said: “Elderly and retired residents rely heavily on the local bus service to get themselves to hospital and doctor’s appointments and to go shopping.

“The number 7 bus provided that important link between these residents and the local community.

“Many people have been left without access to a bus until 10.45am, almost eradicating any hope of making a hospital appointment or doctor’s appointment before noon.

“It cannot be acceptable in this day and age I have elderly residents totally isolated because of these decisions to save costs.”

William Lewis, of Ashford Way, said: “My neighbour last week had a half-hour dentist appointment in town, but because of this new poor timetable it took him more than five hours.

“He is unable to walk far and was left waiting around town for hours. It’s not right.”

Cllr Batsford said the best way to highlight people’s concerns over bus cuts was to travel with passengers all day, gathering their comments.

He said: “Many of the older people reported a feeling of stress and anxiety fearing they would miss the bus, as it means a possible four-hour wait for the next one.

“Before it was a one-hour round trip just enough to do a quick shop and get back home.

“Now it’s a possible three-hour journey.

“After more than 100 conversations with passengers who depend on the No 7 bus and the services connected with it, it highlighted a service every two hours isolates our most vulnerable residents across town and is just not acceptable.

“The 100-strong petition I have collected will make that point clearly to the county council.”

A spokeswoman for East Sussex County Council said: “We have to find savings of up to £90m over the next three years and many services we provide will have to be reviewed to ensure that our limited budget is helping those most in need. Changes to subsidised bus services have enabled us to safeguard 90 services and will save the taxpayer £1.88 million.

“Residents still have access to the number 7 bus service six days a week, but at a reduced frequency. Figures for usage of the number 7 bus before the changes show just five people used the 9.17am service starting at Ashford Way, compared to 15 on the later service.”

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