Council calls time on bus timetables

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BUS timetables at stops in Garstang look likely to be replaced with posters advising passengers to either phone or text to find out journey times.

The move, which has already seen timetables in some parts of the county replaced with “dial this number...” posters has been condemned by bus users in Garstang as well as the town’s Labour Campaign Group.

Lancashire County Council has decided, as part of cost cutting measures, it will no longer provide timetables when bus operators make changes to their services.

The situation has led to confusion and anger among bus passengers, many of whom in the Garstang area are elderly and do not have mobile phones to ring or text for information.

Cabus resident David Dickinson said: “Therefore if you happen to have a mobile phone – and a lot of older people don’t – it will cost you to find the time of the next bus.

“This they estimate will save them around £200,000 – how I don’t know.”

Labour Campaign Group representative Mike Banahan accused LCC chiefs of “penny pinching”.

He said: “Many people have come to rely on free information at bus stations and at stops and to expect it. Many of them are elderly and to now have pay premium telephone and text rates to find that information is scandalous. Like the letter writer in last week’s Courier letters we call on the people of Garstang to remember these attacks on our elderly and get rid of these thoughtless councillors in next year’s election.”

When initially approached on the matter by the Courier, Garstang County Coun Val Wilson said she was trying to find out more information.She added: “I know with the electronic timetables that as they came to the end of their life it was seen as too expensive to replace them and that is why they have gone.

“I am aware of the problems and have been looking into it.”

She later emailed The Courier to say a decision had been made that in present financial circumstances, it was inappropriate for LCC to pay for replacements when bus companies changed their timetable.

She added: “It seems commonsense for bus companies to keep their customers informed of service changes.

“We have entered into discussion with the bus companies and are confident a resolution will soon be reached.”

A spokesman for LCC said the way the process would work is the council would only remove the timetable as and when bus operators changed services. It would save the council just £100,000 of the £205m it has budgeted to cut by 2014.

A call to the premium 0871 Traveline number costs 10p per minute on top of standard network charges, while texts cost 25p on top of the usual rate.

The council says it will not receive the proceeds from calls or texts.

Couty Coun Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We had to make some tough decisions to protect frontline services and spend £133m less on management and administration over the next three years.

“We continue to invest in public transport in Lancashire and spend £7m a year to subsidise just over 100 buses carrying 5.3m passenger journeys.”