CHANGES to a lifeline bus service have been lambasted after it was revealed it will no longer serve Lickey and make fewer stops in Rubery.
Diamond Bus has switched its 202 to become a number 44 as part of the alteration which comes into force on Monday, June 1.
The new hourly service from Halesowen to Bromsgrove will run through Quinton, Northfield, Frankley and Rubery’s Great Park and main New Road before stopping in Marlbrook, Catshill and the Princess of Wales Community Hospital and then the town’s bus station.
But the bus it is replacing – which has been suspended during the lockdown – went along the Old Birmingham Road and Leach Green Lane where many people depended on it.
One user Julian Hill who lives in Old Birmingham Road, said: “It was always busy – with a good mix of ages – from schoolchildren to older people.
“I used to catch it to Bromsgrove and sometimes change there to get the 144 to Droitwich or Worcester or travel on it to Halesowen and go onto Stourbridge.
“I just don’t see the point of the changes as it will now just follow the 144 which is already an established route.”
Rubery Councillor Peter McDonald has also been inundated with complaints from users.
He has accused operator Diamond Bus of ‘taking advantage of the pandemic’ and not notifying the county council about its intentions.
“I have been approached by a number of people who rely on the bus to get to work and without the service will lose their jobs.
“Diamond’s couldn’t care a less attitude has not only left people stranded, but many in fear of losing their jobs.
“Diamond has acted in a reckless and sickening manner using the pandemic to make changes without any consultation and concerns or thoughts of the consequences of its actions.”
He has called on authority’s transport officer to take action and Worcestershire County Council confirmed it would be speaking to the operator.
A Diamond Bus spokesperson said the viability of the 202 had been under consideration for some time.
“It was operating at a financial loss and in the current economic climate we could no longer sustain this as a loss making commercial service, it currently receives no subsidy from any local councils, and due to a huge decline in passengers over the last two years, it is no longer a viable service for us.
“The former 202 route around Lickey Hills had presented us with a number of operational difficulties and despite trialling a number of different vehicle options on the route, all found the terrain difficult to cope with leading to a negative impact on service reliability.
“As the service was making a loss, investment in new vehicles was not possible and with the additional knowledge that this section of route suffered from low patronage, we looked at opportunities to improve the route.”
She said the new 44 route offered passengers a more reliable, direct service between Halesowen and Bromsgrove, it now served the more populated areas around Catshill, which the operator envisaged would improve numbers and make the service financially viable.
“It also creates a new link to local healthcare services at the Princess of Wales Hospital.
“It had been our intention to launch the new 44 route earlier in the year, but the evolving situation around Coronavirus meant that we had to postpone our plans.
“As we prepare to return to full service, it is our intention to do so with the new 44 route.”
She added residents in the Lickey Road area could still access services to Bromsgrove by taking the X20 service from Lickey Road into Northfield and boarding the 44 service or alternatively boarding the 19 service from Lickey Road and 44 service from Rubery, New Road.
“We understand that this decision will affect a small number of people, but we have had to find a solution to operate the service that meets the majority of passengers and our business needs.”