DOZENS of fuming passengers were out in force at Barnsley Interchange this week protesting a cut to a ‘lifeline’ bus service and South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard has thrown his weight behind the campaign.
Residents in the Kingstone ward have expressed their disappointment at Stagecoach for axing services and reducing frequency rates in October something which they say has left those in need with no choice but to use taxis to get into the town centre.
Service 22 was replaced by the new 22a and 22c, but at reduced times and locations, residents say prompting a mass public meeting which was held at St Edward’s Church on Racecommon Road last week.
At the end of the meeting, which was attended by Mayor Coppard, it was agreed they would hold a demonstration outside Barnsley Interchange calling for an end to the ‘axing’ of the service in the area.
It was organised by Ronnie Steele, who lives on Broadway, after he encountered numerous issues.
Dozens descended on the interchange much to the delight of Ronnie.
He told the Chronicle: “We’re protesting against what Stagecoach have done to our services.
“There used to be four services which went onto Broadway until last year and then they completely axed the service.
“There’s still hundreds of retired people living there relying on that bus service as a lifeline.
“In my view, because it’s been severed, a lot of people will just give up on the service.”
Ronnie is adamant that residents will ‘fight back’ for what they believe is right.
“We need everybody to know just what games Stagecoach are playing it’s a shabby thing to do,” he added.
“We want to send a strong message that we might be ageing, we might be retired but we are fighting.
“We’re fighting back to get that bus service reinstated.”
Mayor Coppard has backed the residents’ campaign and promised he is doing all he can to give the town a better bus service.
He told the Chronicle: “I’m here to support the people who are campaigning for better bus services in South Yorkshire.
“We do need better services in Barnsley.
“People are isolated in their homes, they can’t see friends and family, they can’t get to medical appointments and they can’t see the town centre and everything that it has to offer. That’s not okay.
“We’re trying to fix public transport here in South Yorkshire we need a partner both in government and private sector bus services.”
He added that ‘it’s not too much to ask’ for the government and bus services to provide an ‘effective’ service.
“There’s huge anger and frustrations about how the buses are run in South Yorkshire,” he said.
“I remember we had world-class bus services here, 2p fares and all the rest of it and we need to get back there I’m not promising 2p fares but certainly an effective, efficient and reliable system that people can use.
“I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
“I don’t think people are being unreasonable.
“We need better funding from government, we need a fair deal which we haven’t had and we also need help from the bus companies.
“We’re doing everything we can, but we need those partners to help us too.”
George Arthur, a member of the Better Buses for South Yorkshire campaign, was also in attendance as protesters gathered outside the Stagecoach offices on the Arcade and he admits he was disappointed no representative was present.
He said: “We were hoping that Stagecoach would come and take on board what people are saying and decide if they could make arrangements.
“A large group of us went to the Stagecoach office on the Arcade but no-one would answer the intercom even though the lights were on inside which angered the residents. It’s literally a lifeline for some people.
“People’s lives are being disrupted.”
A further meeting will be held outside the interchange at noon on Monday, with the idea of petitions then being delivered to the bus giant’s bosses.
“We are fighting to get better bus services back in South Yorkshire,” he added.
“What’s happened with the bus services on Broadway is symptomatic of what’s happened elsewhere.
“It’s like a tsunami the rate we’re losing these services.
“We don’t just have to accept cuts, we can do something to stop them.”
Coun Chris Wray, who represents the Dodworth ward, has been working alongside the campaigners for a number of months.
He told the Chronicle: “It was great to see the showing for this.
“The people of Woodland Drive, Broadway, and elsewhere do not want to be cut from the rest of the town or the rest of the town from them and the medical centre.
“Stagecoach, suggesting it’s a short walk, was laughable, to say the least.
“You’re talking three-quarters of a mile for some, and that is a long way.”
A Stagecoach spokesperson said: “From October 29 2023, following discussions with South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, buses 22, 43 and 44 were replaced by new routes 22a and 22c. These provide new direct links to Barnsley Hospital and provide an improved frequency of up to four buses an hour between Barnsley and Gilroyd.
“We had to make some changes to services in this area as ridership on the 43/44 had reduced by 21 per cent over the last four years and costs to run them have increased by over 20 per cent during the same period, meaning they were no longer covering their running costs.
“We have met and had discussions with customers through the Barnsley Transport Users Group about these changes.
“Most passengers who live off Broadway are within 400 metres of an alternative bus stop with a frequent bus service. For anyone unable to walk the short distance, other alternatives such as Door 2 Door community transport are available to use for people who have difficulty using the mainstream public transport network.”