Passengers slam plans to cut bus service

A former bus driver has slammed “horrendous” plans to cut “a vital service” that will leave people living on a Merseyside housing estate “trapped”.

Bus company Arriva is considering cutting two bus routes in Wirral including the 418 circular route that serves Prenton, New Ferry, Upton, Birkenhead, and the Beechwood estate. Passing by Arrowe Park Hospital, the route is used by people going for appointments and work at the hospital. Arriva is also planning to cut the 420 route between West Kirby and Liverpool.

The move has been opposed by more than 700 people who have signed a petition as well as politicians from Wirral’s Labour and Green parties. People who spoke to the LDRS said they would be cut off in the evening and at weekends if it goes and struggle to get off the Beechwood Estate as it is.

According to 2021 Census data, the bus route also serves some areas of the Wirral where more than half of people don’t have a car or van and who use buses at nearly twice the Wirral average.

Brendan Murphy (pictured) used to work for Arriva and has been a bus driver since 1970. Having lived on the Beechwood Estate for 15 years, he said the current situation was horrendous, adding, “If I wanted to go anywhere else, I am basically stuffed. I do try and get out every day.

“Luckily I don’t have to go to Arrowe Park but there are people on this estate who work for the hospital who will find it very difficult to get there, visitors but staff as well. Their shifts finish at 8pm but the last bus is at 7.25pm. Any workers who want to get home, they can’t do it. It’s not fair.”

He said the service that’s still running has been gradually cut back and reduced over the years with getting off the estate particularly bad over the weekends and bank holidays. Last Christmas, the Beechwood went four days without a bus.

He added, “If you can’t drive for obvious reasons like health or eyesight, people are dependant on public services. They need a bus service, it’s ridiculous.”

David McKay from Prenton, said the planned cuts were an “utter disgrace,” adding, “The bus service is nearly non-existent as it is finishing at 7pm every night and none on a Sunday. I use it for hospital appointments and visiting family. For myself, who can get about, that’s okay but there are loads of old people and pensioners who are trapped on the estate.”

One woman who lives on the Woodchurch uses the bus to get to The Oval Campus at Wirral Met College in Bebington would have to leave an hour earlier in the morning going via central Birkenhead to get to college.

She said, “I mean I do think it’s bad that they come every hour but I can deal with that,” adding, “It would be an absolute pain if this bus stopped.”

The 418 bus going through the Beechwood estate. Credit: Edward Barnes

Another woman who is disabled said the 418 is the only bus she can use to get to regular appointments at Arrowe Park and she can’t afford taxis. She said, “If they do remove the 418 I would have to miss my appointments which would have a massive impact on my health.”

She added, “They keep telling us to leave cars at home to use public transport. However we can’t do that due to the cost and uncertainty.”

The move has also been criticised by politicians. Presenting the 700-strong petition against the cuts, Bidston councillor Julie McManus said, “With around 50% car ownership, I’d ask how residents will get to work or school? How will they visit loved ones in hospital? This will cut them off.”

Pointing to potential impacts on the elderly, those with dementia and their carers, she added, “If we withdraw this service, we may as well as scrap the over 60s bus for many of my residents.”

The campaign has also received support from Wirral MPs Alison McGovern and Mick Whitley as well as Bromborough and Prenton Green councillors Jo Bird and Naomi Graham. Cllr Bird said, “There are plans for thousands of more houses in Bromborough and in other parts of the Wirral and we need decent public transport to get people where they need to go.”

In response to a question from Cllr Graham, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee chair Cllr Steve Foulkes said, “Officers are discussing a number of options to continue but at the moment the thing we would like to achieve most is for Arriva to not de-register the service and continue to provide the current service for future years and we want them to come to the table.”

He said there was unanimous political will to see the bus service stay, adding, “We will do all we can to retain the service, we know it affects people in their everyday lives.”

A consultation on the planned bus route cuts has now finished. An Arriva spokesperson said, “We thank people for taking part and sharing their feedback. We’re currently in the process of analysing the responses received and will share additional information at the earliest opportunity.”

Image: Brendan Murphy, a former bus driver, has been campaigning against the cuts

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