Oliver supports Winterbourne Valley bus service campaign

Courtesy of the Dorset Echo


Angry residents stage protest over cuts to "lifeline" bus service

3:11pm Saturday 16th May 2015

By Lee Irving

NEARLY 200 villagers protested in West Dorset to voice their anger that a “lifeline” bus service has been slashed, leaving them “cut off”.

Residents from the Winterbourne Valley, which includes Martinstown and Winterbourne Steepleton, gathered on the Martinstown village green to urge bus company First to re-instate a regular bus service through the villages.

The bus operator cut the hourly service last year so only two buses a day were going through the villages, which have a population of around 1,000 people. But following protests the firm had a rethink and there are now six buses – three in the morning towards Dorchester and three in the afternoon returning.

Now – backed by West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin and Dorset County Councillor Andy Canning – campaigners organised another protest to plead with First to reinstate more regular services.

Keith Howat, one of the main organisers of the protest, said: “The turn-out was very good. We have a thousand people living in a valley with a far reduced bus service, with nothing on the weekends or holidays. If you haven’t got a car, it has left you cut off.

“The reductions have affected lots of people. More and more are being forced to buy cars because the public transport system is just not good enough.

“We accept that to have the service returned it’s going to be very difficult but we want a more regular bus service. It’s a lifeline for some people.”

Kath Wilson, 74, from Martinstown, said: “I have found the drastic cuts to the X31 so distressing, it’s made me feel like a prisoner.

“At my age I cannot walk to Poundbury from Martinstown, let alone Dorchester. It’s a dangerous road, there’s no pavement and there are many blind corners and taxis are expensive especially for pensioners.

“The buses that are available are far too early in the morning, and all this has caused me a lot of distress, I suffer from depression, severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

“I need a decent bus service.”

West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin also attended the protest and backed the villagers’ campaign. He said: “There is a strong feeling from villagers about this.

“I have just been speaking to an elderly lady and because of the length of time between the morning and evening buses she cannot go into Dorchester at all to do her shopping or to meet people.

“The truth is it is a sort of lifeline for people.

“We want to try and increase the frequency so that there’s a bus to make and I’m having a series of meetings with First and the county council to try and ensure that.”

Andy Canning, a Dorset County Councillor for the ward, said: “It’s really impressive how many people are willing to come out and show First it’s made a mistake and that a regular bus should be rerouted here.

“We are putting as much pressure as we can on first to be reasonable, but we are finding that they have made a decision and are digging their heels in.”