Heated debate in Cleckheaton over local bus services

Tracy Brabin MP at the public meeting in Cleckheaton
Tracy Brabin MP at the public meeting in Cleckheaton

A packed public meeting called by Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin saw dozens of angry bus users vent their frustration at transport bosses over the recent timetable overhaul.

Around 100 local residents attended the Cleckheaton meeting on March 8 with many putting their concerns about the new North Kirklees timetable directly to Arriva and West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Concerns were raised about cuts to various services during the meeting, with changes to the 229 and X25 and the removal of the 253 sparking the fiercest outcry.

Among the issues raised were students struggling to get to Greenhead College Sixth Form and other schools on time, some residents being “cut off” from Dewsbury and District Hospital and others losing direct services to surrounding towns and cities.

One resident, who relies on the X25 from the Hunsworth area of Cleckheaton to travel to Leeds, said: “There are people having to change hours or give up their jobs.”

A pensioner who relied on the 221 said: “It was a smashing bus – now you’ve slammed the door in my face. I’m 95-years-old and maybe I shouldn’t go out anymore – that’s how you made me feel.”

And a woman who regularly used the now defunct 253 service told transport bosses they had “wrecked the North Kirklees bus service”.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “I’m grateful to Arriva and West Yorkshire Combined Authority for agreeing to the meeting and I hope they now understand just how much these changes are affecting people’s lives.

“Some of the contributions on the night were absolutely heartbreaking and it really laid bare just how important buses are to so many in our community.

“It’s crucial that those who run our public transport listen to the concerns of the people who rely on the services and now, having witnessed the strength of opposition, the onus is very much on them to take this feedback on board.

“I will continue to press Arriva to reconsider some of these changes and fight for more central government funding for our buses after almost a decade of cuts.”

As well as timetabling issues, concerns were raised about the visibility of the public consultation, which took place last October, with many saying they did not feel they were given the opportunity to take part.

In response to points raised in the meeting Arriva said some of the services were cut or changed due to “commercial viability” while West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which subsidises some services, said central government cuts to supported bus services are impacting on their involvement with £1m stripped from its budget this year alone.

Arriva and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have agreed to a follow-up meeting to report back on the issues raised.

Dwayne Wells, Head of Commercial for Arriva Yorkshire said: “We have made several changes to our bus network in North Kirklees following extensive consultation with hundreds of our customers.

“Improvements include running popular services more often, making journeys quicker and more reliable, and introducing new links. Overall we have three more buses on the road today compared to before the changes, as well as several new drivers.

“The new network is designed to grow bus usage in the area, but we do recognise that a small number of our customers will lose a direct link to their ultimate destination. Connections are still available by interchanging at a bus station or hub, and we continue to engage with our customers to support journey planning by promoting the different options available.”