Battle is on to save bus route from being axed

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A BATTLE is being staged by bus users and Portsmouth City Council to save a service that runs in the city.

First Hampshire has announced it will cancel its number 19 route from April 16. But people who rely on the bus between the city centre and North End are rallying to try to rescue it from the chop.

Geoffrey Brooking, of Eastern Road, Milton, said: ‘This is a service a large number of people rely on, and we need to help keep it in operation. I use it every day, but there are many others for whom even walking further to stops where other buses run isn’t an option.’

Mr Brooking will raise the matter at Portsmouth City Council’s next full council meeting today.

He said: ‘I want to make sure the council knows how important this service is. There’s a lady who has emphysema who uses it to shop. A man I see each day has angina.

‘Taking this service away would be a disaster.’

The 19 route, which runs hourly and calls at Old Portsmouth, Southsea, Milton, Baffins, Portsmouth College and Moneyfields, was one of seven services at risk in the council’s budget.

As reported last month, the city council plans to cut £113,000 from its bus subsidies.

The council fully subsidises the 19, and wanted to cut only its after-6pm services – which works out as two buses per day Monday to Friday and one on Saturdays.

But First Hampshire announced it would cut the service completely, which it says is because the council has reduced the amount it pays the firm for free travel for pensioners.

The council has now entered last-minute negotiations with First, and proposals include running the 19 once every two hours.

Pam Turton, from the city’s transport department, said: ‘We’re negotiating to preserve as much as possible.

‘Until negotiations are finished, we won’t know how savings will affect other services.

‘Changes to other services would take effect after May 14.’

A First Hampshire spokeswoman said: ‘The route has become loss-making.

‘We can’t sustain these losses any longer, so we’re discussing the possibility of relinquishing the contracted service.

‘We’re talking to them about alternatives to enable us to maintain a level of service for the customers using this route.’