I was interested to note the letters to the Editor in last weeks' Gazette, and I write following my attendance at the Local Area Forum Meeting on December 5, at which representations were made to councillors regarding the 312 service - and about other services that are to be cut as a result of council decisions. These decisions will severely impact on communities in Severn Beach and Pilning.
I note that Cllr Allinson was moved to write to the Gazette explaining that the decision to make the cuts was not his - but he didn't do us the courtesy of attending the meeting himself - and the next council meeting is in January, by which time the service will have been reduced to the level of inadequacy.
At the meeting, the Council implied that there had been'consultation' on this change and the change to the other services listed - at the Local Transport Forum meetings (which, as an aside, I think may take place at Kingswood - not ideal for transport users in Thornbury, reliant on public transport).
These meetings were not publicised in any way and itseems clear to us 'civilians' that the users of these services knew nothing about the proposed changes OR about the consultation that purportedly took place regarding the proposed changes - we wonder whether this was a slick "consultation process" to achieve political ends rather than to properly inform and consult on a decision that was expected to be contentious ?
It seems to us that many fine words have been spoken and written about co-ordinating transport by the council - in several parts of the document circulated at the above meeting entitled 'Consultation on a vision for an excellent quality of life' - and yet the decision to cut funding and services will, without doubt, lead to greater congestion on the roads, more pollution. And yet we were told last night that reducing congestion was a key strategic aim for local and national government.
Saving a few pounds on subsidising the busses now runs directly against this stated aim !
It is also clear that UWE and MoD, major employers in the area, with staff whose role is dedicated to sustainable transport (to the benefit of their employees and students, the environment) knew nothing of this and have NOT been consulted. This is mind boggling - this expertise has not been engaged - especially when, whereas on a daily basis traffic is impossible around MoD/UWE/A4174 and Aztec West/Almondsbury for commuters, occasionally traffic in Thornbury, where the Council Offices happen to be located, traffic is relatively easy.
It is clear that local schools have not been engaged - this decision will lead to school children arriving at Filton High School either at 7.45 or at 9.45 in the morning. The decision leaves them on the street or being driven in to school in a 'gas guzzling' 4x4. Travelling home they will catch a bus at 4.30 - IF it arrives on time or will wait in the dark and rain until 6. Or put another car on the road at the start of the evening rush hour.
The elderly couple I spoke to who are reliant on the bus to get them in to Frenchay Hospital for appointments - the council members and your readers will surely know how difficult it is to get agreed times for such appointments, and how easily appointments can run late - what options does this decision leave the elderly couple - taxis ? How much will that cost and how fair does that feel ?
How about the occasional user - the person travelling to London on the train - they will HAVE to drive and pay for car parking, as the first service will get them there at 7.45 - too late for an early London meeting - and the last bus will leave there around 6pm, as the train pulls in to Reading......,Or the students travelling away from UWE for the weekend unable to get to the train station.
Similarly the person I spoke to on Friday, whose daily commute to Swindon will now not be possible, the earliest 312 will get him in to Parkway minutes after the train leaves, if he can get to Swindon, he will not get back in time for the last bus.
People make lifestyle choices about where they live and work and study, and transport links are key to this. Long term, if travel in to work is too much of a pain, people will chose to go elsewhere. Do the council want this for Thornbury ?
There was also an ironic note to the later discussions regarding use of the town centre for shopping and other services - IF the new timetable for the 312 is brought in, people travelling in to Thornbury in the morning from the south (Patchway, Almondsbury etc) won't be able to get in early - I THINK the first bus gets in 10.30 in the morning - they won't be able to commute or shop very easily - they'll take their custom elsewhere...........
The proposed 312 timetable is simply not workable, there is no slack in the situation (busses will get caught in rush hour and timings will be unreliable, and IF there is a problem, such as a breakdown it will be catastrophic for the users on that day). Under this timetable the service has been cut so much that it WILL wither on the vine.
Given that Cllr Allinson is keen to distance himself from responsibility from the decision to make these cuts, I would call on him to show leadership in protecting the service whilst a robust review is carried out, one that includes users and others with a vested interest in a successful service, rather than one which has, without doubt, been designed to fail..
Then, at least we 'civilians' will feel that we matter and that our needs are considered - and that decisions have been taken looking at BENEFITS as well as COSTS - there is more to life than just financial cost.
Dave Morgan Alveston