Victory for people power as number 19 bus is saved

Gosport MP welcomes plans on homelessness but admits ‘it’s a significant problem’

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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.

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

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

He said: ‘It’s fantastic. It’s really good news it’s been saved. When I heard the service was in danger I spoke to people who get the bus. So many of them are pensioners who 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. Everyone worked really hard and it’s so good there will still be a service.’

The 19 operates hourly, but Portsmouth City Council, which subsidises the service with £94,750 per year, wanted to end the evening service, saving £50,250.

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

The campaign included a petition of more than 200 names, and saw Mr Brooking address the city council to call for the service’s rescue.

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.

‘We’ll pay £55,000 for the service, and it will continue to run from Monday to Saturday, every two hours when there is most demand.’

A spokesperson for First said: ‘We can confirm 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.’