Operators have warned they may avoid using Accrington’s new £6.4m bus station in protest at ‘exorbitant’ charges.
Charges of up to £1.50 for each journey departure are set to be introduced at the new Accrington bus station when it opens at Crawshaw Street in May.
Independent bus operators in Accrington are warning that they may avoid using the bus station if Lancashire County Council (LCC) introduces such high charges as they bid to make the station ‘self-financing’.
Bob Tuffnell, operations director of Accrington-based M and M Coaches, slammed the potential £1.50 charge.
He said: “That’s totally ridiculous. For one of our buses to go from Accrington to Blackburn it will cost £3 in charges just for that one journey. That’s exorbitant.
“We’d have to put prices and fares up to cover it. In fact we’re looking into not going into that bus station if they charge that much.”
M and M Coaches say they are preparing to bypass the station and use passenger stops instead.
Pilkingtons say they may only use the bus station once an hour.
Alan Pilkington, owner of Pilkington Bus, said: “They are going to go from zero to £1.50. That would cost me an extra £50,000 a year and that’s for services that don’t even make much money.
“We either have to change services or not go into that bus station. I can’t use it if it’s going to put my company at risk.”
Conservative group leader Coun Tony Dobson said the situation was farcical.
He said: “The council started building the bus station without asking operators if they would definitely sign up to the charges. Now we are facing a situation that when the bus station opens in May there’ll be no buses to go in it - it is a circus.”
Phil Smith, managing director of Rosso Bus, said the Lancashire bus operators are in talks with council officers to set an agreed departure charge.
He said: “LCC have a facility to charge up to £1.50 and that is a great concern, but I would hope that a sensible level of departure charge can be arrived at before the new bus station opens in May.”
LCC said “indicative modelling” shows that they would need to introduce departure charges of between 50p to £1.50 in order to cover the costs of operating the bus station.
A spokesman added: “However, no decision has been made and we are currently working to determine the revised charges to be introduced from April.”
Last week we revealed that the new station, due to open on May 22, will include a dedication to former Hyndburn council leader George Slynn.
Community buses set to be axed
Half of Hyndburn’s community bus services will be axed from April due to the removal of county council subsidies.
Five town centre routes through Accrington will be withdrawn completely, and a further four routes will be only partially maintained with services being withdrawn at certain times of day. Routes 4/4A, 5/5A, 8, 11 and 231 will all cease operation as Lancashire County Council (LCC) have advised they are not commercially viable and operators cannot be found to take them on. Of the partial closures on routes 6a, 7a, 23 and 152, daytime services will be predominantly maintained but certain evening and Sunday services will be stopped.
At last week’s full LCC meeting Oswaldtwistle councillor Peter Britcliffe called on all Hyndburn councillors to oppose the scrapping of subsidies.
He told members: “Some very vulnerable people are going to be affected by this.”
However, Pilkington Bus has stepped in to take on the number 14/14a route between Clitheroe and Blackburn Hospital, which stops in Accrington. The route, previously operated by Holmeswood Coaches, was due to end on Sunday, February 21.
Pilkington Bus owner Alan Pilkington said: “I looked at the service and found an opportunity between Accrington and Clitheroe, and I listened to the people from the area and there is a big demand. We think it will work, and in fact we can improve the service even more.”
Pilkington Bus will provide a Monday to Saturday daytime service every 90 minutes between Clitheroe and Accrington only from February 22, and will also operate the key peak journeys arriving and departing from Clitheroe.
However, the direct link between Accrington and Royal Blackburn Hospital will be withdrawn, with passengers having to take an alternative bus and change at Blackburn to access the hospital.
Hyndburn council leader Miles Parkinson said 50 per cent of routes had been retained in some form. Auto He said: “That is the positiveness of this scenario, working with the Conservative leader in Hyndburn, and myself, and the portfolio holder John Fillis coming to Hyndburn addressing and seriously listening to a bus company.”