New bus timetables introduced in Cornwall at the weekend produced chaos for passengers after First Bus failed to publicise the changes. No information was posted at bus stops, leaving some passengers, including school children, waiting for buses that never arrived.
Although the changes have been reported in The Packet in recent weeks, following months of talks between First Bus and Cornwall Council, only passengers with internet access were able to find out what was happening when the changes became effective on Sunday (Nov 3.) Two schoolchildren, one aged just 12, were forced to walk from Falmouth’s Old Hill to Penryn College after their bus failed to arrive.
Mya Tate, aged 12, and her 15-year-old brother Lewis waited for more than 40 minutes at their usual bus stop at Old Hill before giving up and walking almost two miles across busy roads in rush hour traffic. They arrived at school at 9.20am, more than half an hour late.
Their dad Mark, from Grenville Road, told the Packet: “There’s no information around.”
He subsequently discovered that the previous 7.55am bus service, which is caught by 12 schoolchildren every day, now leaves Old Hill at 8.40am – just five minutes before the start of the school day at Penryn College, meaning they will always be late. At the end of the day the bus home is at 3.15pm, the exact time lessons finish and therefore impossible to catch in time.
Other buses on the timetable do not stop near the college or at appropriate times.
“First just seem oblivious. They don’t care about kids’ education,” added Mr Tate.
A First spokesperson said: “We have been working very closely with our stakeholders including Cornwall Council to come up with a revised bus service for the county. This resulted in us having to operate within very restricted time-frames, which unfortunately has impacted on the delivery of timetables.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), we took delivery of timetables for the 16, 27 and 41 services and the 1,5 and 6, 46/47 and 88 are due on Friday, while the 17 was available last Friday. We are now working hard to have the remaining timetables available for the start of next week.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience the late arrival of the printed timetables has caused. I can assure our customers that we are doing everything we can to try and speed up the process.
“In the meantime, all our timetables are available to download on our webwww.firstgroup.com/ukbus/devon_cornwall/journey_planning/booklets.”
Cornwall Council announced the new routes a few weeks ago, following months of talks with bus companies over the impact of £0.5m savings in its public transport funding for this financial year.
David Edwards, head of the council’s passenger transport unit said: “The financial pressures upon local authorities and bus companies necessitate there being better utilisation of vehicles. We have worked closely with bus companies in particular, the two major operators, First South West Ltd and Western Greyhound Ltd to re-align bus services to match resource with demand. We have sought advice also from bus users groups, such as Travelwatch South West.
“Our goal has been to preserve as many rural bus services as possible and reduce the journey frequency rather than lose whole services. We have also investigated other modes of transport and have engaged with community bus groups and volunteer organisations.
“There is little doubt, however, that without sufficient funding, the face of rural bus services will change and going forward, one cannot rule out service losses where passenger numbers are particularly low.”