HEAVILY-CRITICISED changes to a bus route in Gosport are to stay despite hundreds of people signing a petition against them.
It comes as First Bus bigwigs met Gosport’s MP Caroline Dinenage and two councillors yesterday over the cutbacks on the number nine service.
But Ms Dinenage is looking at ways the service could be funded, saying: ‘It’s not the end of the road.
‘It was a good meeting, it was very productive,’ she added.
‘There’s not a magic wand. Most of the bus routes that have been affected are not bus routes that were ever paid for by First.
‘They were ones that were subsidised by Hampshire County Council. It’s not the end of the road, there are still some avenues we can explore.’
As reported, more than 400 people signed a petition organised by Anglesey ward councillor Alan Scard when First announced cuts from 33 services a day to six.
And there is no bus after 5.50pm or on Sundays and bank holidays.
It has left Alverstoke without an evening bus and people feel cut off.
The service was funded by payments to the council when Priddy’s Hard was developed but that cash has now been used up.
And due to competition laws First cannot cross-subsidise – meaning it can’t pay for the route using cash from other services.
Hampshire and Gosport Borough Council councillor Graham Burgess was at the meeting.
He said: ‘We’re pleased that First Bus listened to us. We are going to have further meetings, the next one will be with county.’
Figures released to The News yesterday reveal on average one-and-a-half passengers per journey use the service around Alverstoke.
But Jeremy Webb, 55, of Monckton Road says the route is needed.
He said: ‘My parents prefer to take the bus into town but they can’t because the service goes every two hours.
‘And if they want to go to QA Hospital, she has to drive the car to the Falkland Gardens and catch an E1 to Fareham.
‘There are many, many people... who have just been ostracised.’
In 2012 a groundswell of anger over route changes across the area led to a review and the firm tweaked timetables again.
Marc Reddy, managing director of First Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire met with the MP and Cllrs Scard and Burgess yesterday.
He said: ‘We had a very productive meeting with Ms Dinenage during which we discussed further avenues which we will explore with her in future talks with the county council.’