Conor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North, has voiced strong opposition to further planned bus service cuts which could, if enacted, hit St Helens and the wider Merseyside region from as soon as September this year.
The proposals include a merging of the 17 (St Helens to Widnes) and 30 (Sutton Manor to Chain Lane) services and the withdrawal of the 37 (St Helens to Eccleston).
The reductions come at the behest of local private operators Arriva and Stagecoach, as they grapple with the withdrawal of the Department for Transport’s Bus Recovery funding this autumn while patronage levels on the network linger below their pre-pandemic level.
Mr McGinn has been working with Cllr Liam Robinson, Liverpool City Region Transport Portfolio Holder, to make their opposition to the cuts clear, and is working with local leaders on Merseyside in fighting them tooth and nail.
He blamed the reductions on operators, but also on Government funding cuts and its failed experiment with bus de-regulation. This has meant profits from the most well-trodden routes are not ploughed back in to support essential, but naturally quieter, community routes; including those struggling to bounce back post-Covid.
The cuts, Mr McGinn argued, put profits before people and turbocharged the case to transform the bus network and reverse that policy of de-regulation, as championed locally and regionally by himself, Labour-run St Helens Council, Liverpool City Region and its Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.
He called on operators to reconsider immediately and come forward with proposals that do not reduce services, nor hurt local communities.
Commenting, Conor McGinn MP said:
“I’m deeply concerned and disappointed that private operators are proposing yet further cuts to our local bus services.
“If enacted, the reductions would be a significant blow to connectivity across St Helens Borough and Merseyside, and would leave residents with a poorer, more fragmented service. That would be particularly felt by older, vulnerable people and areas more reliant on our buses such as Garswood, Billinge, Moss Bank and Rainford in my constituency.
“I call on operators to urgently slam the brakes on these plans and think again.
“I’ll keep working with our local council and city region, both to hammer home that message and to transform our bus network away from Conservative Ministers’ failed experiment with de-regulation and towards a world-class service that puts people firmly before profits.”
Read more about this story in the Liverpool ECHO here.