'I have confidence in buses in Manchester but not in Chesterfield' - says resident amid calls for bus franchise in Derbyshire
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The bus franchise was one of the topics mentioned at the public meeting about buses held at the Community Centre on Tontine Road in Chesterfield.
Bus franchising gives local authorities full control in deciding the bus routes, frequencies and running hours of the services, as opposed to all decisions being made by the bus operators.
The system is currently under development in the Greater Manchester area – where the Bee buses network has been launched and it is planned that all buses will be under the control of local authority in 2025.
Gail Wagstaff, who helps Adrian Rimington run the campaign to improve bus services across Derbyshire, believes that the county should follow in Manchester’s footsteps.
Gail, who is originally from Stockport and has lived in Chesterfield for three years now, said: “I travel a lot to Stockport and Manchester to see my family. The buses in Manchester run every three to 10 minutes at busy times. I have great confidence in buses in Manchester but I wouldn’t have the same confidence in Chesterfield.
"Recently I took my four-year-old nephew on my own in Manchester for the first time. I only decided to do it because I knew I could rely on the buses. I wouldn’t want to take him out in Chesterfield because sometimes I have to wait over an hour for a bus.
"Thanks to bus franchise project the buses in Manchester are accessible, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly. Buses in Chesterfield unfortunately are unreliable. I hope if we have a bus franchise in Chesterfield we can have service like in Greater Manchester across Derbyshire.”
The bus franchise was introduced in Manchester following the Greater Manchester mayoral election and Adrian Rimington from the National Pensioners Convention has suggested that that it would be perfect to use mayoral elections in May as an opportunity to adopt the idea locally.
But bus operators' representatives present at the Community Centre last Wednesday did not share Gail’s and Adrian’s enthusiasm.
Alfred Crofts, Managing Director at Hulleys of Baslow said: “I’m not a fan of a bus franchise idea. It can run in a big city like the Greater Manchester area with two million people. But here having a bus every hour is barely affordable for bus providers. I don’t know who will become the mayor but if they decide to go with the franchise, they will have to spend a lot of money. This is not a system for small operators like Hulleys. It won’t be sustainable and will only be a waste of your and our money.”
Stagecoach Yorkshire’s Commercial Director John Young said: “I am pleased to tell you that Stagecoach runs many services in Greater Manchester area. Many buses in Manchester have a sticker saying they are ‘ready to join Bee Bus Network’ but in fact are still run by bus providers and will be fully under public control in 2025.
"From Stagecoach's point of view, we have to make a profit to invest in our fleet and people to remain in business so franchise is not a perfect option. What is attractive about it for Stagecoach is that if it goes ahead we can just sit back and do what somebody tells us to do. But it is not worthwhile for small operators like Hulleys. In Greater Manchester, little operators have been left with nothing now.
"Derbyshire is largely rural so if we will join Derby and Nottingham in a bus scheme, they will shout loud for money and Derbyshire will be left with scraps – and the problems caused by fewer people using buses and by the driver shortages will still remain.”