A PUBLIC outcry from elderly passengers who condemned a bus company for cutting off their daily lives after a route cull have praised local leaders - after it was revealed a ‘lifeline’ replacement service will be commissioned by the spring.
Following well-attended public meetings at St Edward’s Church in Kingstone and protests at Barnsley Interchange, the Chronicle can reveal a new service - the 33 - will replace the former Stagecoach-operated 43 and 44 which served the Broadway area until October’s axing.
It is set to be fast-tracked due to demand, with Holmfirth-based South Pennine Community Transport already identified as the preferred operator.
It will run between the town centre and Woodland Drive, along Racecommon Road and Broadway, Monday to Friday between 10am and 2pm.
The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) will foot the bill, it was confirmed this week, following a backlash and another online meeting last Friday.
Campaigners - led by local resident Ronnie Steele - met again at the church yesterday for an update from those involved.
Coun Chris Wray said: “The passenger group, led by Ronnie, has been extremely successful and there’s been good communication between SYMCA and local councillors.
“I can’t thank SYMCA enough for working with residents and representatives to make this happen.
“I look forward to productive meetings regarding other under-served areas, such as around Brookdale Heights in Gilroyd.
“We’re delighted the area will get a bus back - the people of Woodland Drive, Broadway and elsewhere do not want to be cut from the rest of the town.
“You can’t cut off a big estate like that without there being issues.
“Stagecoach’s words, suggesting it’s a short walk, were laughable to say the least.
“You’re talking three-quarters of a mile for some and that is a long way.
“Since the decision was made in October, I emailed Stagecoach and SYMCA but the real attention came following the public outcry.
“In particular that was from the public meeting at St Edward’s Church and the protest at the interchange, both of which were attended and supported by Oliver Coppard, South Yorkshire’s mayor.
“SYMCA will pay for a bus to go to the Woodland Drive and Broadway areas as of April, though the service will be limited as it works around school times, which is the main function of the bus.
“I have already made some recommendations for the proposed route and times and I’ve been sharing the link to the public consultation locally so people can have their say on this and other routes.
“It’s nice to be a part of a win like that, eventually bringing back buses - even if at a smaller level - for people who were severed without.
“The real drive has come from the public, of that there is no doubt.”
Fresh calls for franchising buses - which effectively means current operators would have to bid to run services - have been made this week following the disgruntled passengers’ win.
Exploration of a franchising model received the backing of local authority heads, although Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said there was ‘no quick fix’ and made reference to legal action raised by transport operators in Greater Manchester.
About £5m is set to be spent on assessing the franchising model and its development, but ‘further substantial costs’ would be incurred if the nod is given.
Coun Wray added: “What the situation in Kingstone shows is that we need a long-term solution to this issue of bus operators cutting routes.
“We are clear that only a move to a fully franchised system can halt the terminal decline in our bus network and give local authorities back control over their buses.”