RESIDENTS in Ridge Hill, Stalybridge, are feeling even more isolated after cuts to a popular bus service.
And Stalybridge North ward councillors have requested a meeting with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to detail the issues.
They also argue this case highlights the need to bring bus services under public control, something Mr Burnham has pledged to do.
Councillor Adrian Pearce said: “In the last month, Stalybridge North ward councillors have each received a large number of complaints about cuts to the 389 service.
“The frequency of the 389 service was reduced from half-hourly to hourly when Stagecoach stopped operating the route as a commercial service.
“This circular route serves Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Ashton including Stalybridge railway station, Tameside Hospital and the new terminus in Ashton. It is a vital link for people living across these three towns, but in particular those people living in the Ridge Hill area.
“The frequency of buses and number of routes have been repeatedly cut in this area over the past 10 years leaving many people, who do not have private transport, increasingly isolated and wondering how they will get to medical appointments, do their shopping or visit friends.
“It is another blow for an area which is poorly served by local facilities and suffers some of the highest levels of deprivation in Tameside.”
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) replaced this service with an hourly subsidised service, which although better than nothing, is inconvenient and leaves many people having to find alternative transport to get to work or college, attend appointments or shop.
Cllr Pearce continued: “As a result, the residents of Ridge Hill find themselves the victims of two Government policies: running the buses as a business rather than as a public service and the continual reduction in Government grant for subsidies to run uneconomic” routes.
“Over the last five years, the money available to TfGM to subsidise services has been reduced. It means, in effect, that TfGM can now only grant subsidies to run buses on an hourly basis, a policy which now applies to the 389 route.
“There appears to be no exceptions to this rule which applies across Greater Manchester.
“The difficulty with this policy is that it takes no account of terrain or poverty which impact differently upon the lives of the diverse communities of Greater Manchester.
“Although this policy might have been designed to provide equal slices of a continually diminishing cake, in reality, the reductions in bus services have a disproportionate impact upon poorer communities or those living in areas with more challenging terrain. This is certainly the case in Ridge Hill.
“Unfortunately, the recently announced bus reforms, which we welcome, will not in the short term reverse these changes, but as councillors we will not allow them to go unchallenged because of the severe impact upon people’s lives.”
Stalybridge North ward councillors have requested a meeting with the Mr Burnham to make him aware of the impact of these changes and with TfGM to ask for the reinstatement of the 389 to a half-hourly service and for a review of the way in which bus routes are subsidised in Greater Manchester.