Portsmouth bus service saved by campaigners

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PEOPLE POWER has won the day in a battle to save a ‘vital’ city bus service.

A campaign by users of the 19 bus has seen plans to scrap the service dropped.

Geoffrey Brooking, a bus user who lives on Eastern Road, led the campaign.

He said: ‘It’s fantastic. We didn’t want it to be cancelled and it’s really good news it’s been saved. As soon as I heard the service was in danger I spoke to people who get the bus. So many of them are pensioners and they really rely on it. Without it they said they’d be trapped in their homes and I thought they needed someone to help pull things together. But everyone worked really hard and it’s so good there will still be a service.’

The 19, run by First, operates between Portsmouth and North End, calling at Old Portsmouth, Southsea, Milton, Baffins, Portsmouth College and Moneyfields.

It has operated hourly up to now, but Portsmouth City Council, which has subsidised the service at £94,750 per year, wanted to cut the funding.

It had proposed cutting the evening running completely, saving £50,250.

But First said it couldn’t afford to operate the service at the reduced subsidy, and threatened to stop it completely.

Instead, the campaign, which has included a petition of more than 200 names, and saw Mr Brooking address the Full Council to call for the 19’s rescue, has caused a change of plan.

From Monday, the service will run once every two hours, between 8am and 6pm.

Mr Brooking said: ‘Of course we would have liked it to operate every hour as before, but this service is a real lifeline and it was going to be taken away, so I’m extremely pleased. We all are. Lots of people helped, taking petition forms around and even one bus driver got people to sign up. It’s really lovely and an example of people power.’

The council’s transport planning officer, Angela Gill, said: ‘We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with First that will save the 19. We’ll continue to pay for the service, and it will continue to run from Monday to Saturday. It will run every two hours, from 8am to 6pm – the period when there is most demand. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to keep an hourly service or to continue an evening service.’

A spokesperson for First said: ‘We can confirm that following negotiations with Portsmouth City Council, service 19 has been retained on a two hourly basis.’

But Mr Brooking warned: ‘There are to be more council cuts next year, and everyone knows these central cuts will put pressure on buses again, so we can’t relax yet. I hope people will go to First’s public meetings and let the firm know how important buses are to us all.’