ALARMING figures show there has been a sharp fall in the number of bus journeys being taken by Portsmouth passengers.
Data collected by bus operators on behalf of the Department for Transport showed there were 10.1m journeys taken from the city between April last year and this year – 800,000 fewer than in 2011/2012.
The statistics reveal that passengers took 10.5m rides in the period before that.
And on average, people had to wait 2.7 minutes for a frequent service that was running late, higher than anywhere else in the country.
Figures for delays in the city weren’t available for 2011/2012 and 2010/2011 but in 2010/2009 passengers were only held up by 1.2 minutes.
Meanwhile, the number of Hampshire bus journeys rose by 200,000 from 31.9m to 32.1m.
In Southampton, the figure went down by 400,000 from 18.2m to 17.8m and on the Isle of Wight it went up from 7.2m to 7.5m.
Councillor Luke Stubbs, deputy Conservative group leader, said while Portsmouth’s new £28m park and ride scheme will attract more passengers, it wouldn’t be enough to solve the issue.
He said digital bus timetables should be introduced and said delays stemmed from the city being so congested.
‘A lot of other areas have real-time bus information and the fact we don’t have that sort of thing in Portsmouth puts people off from getting the bus,’ Cllr Stubbs said.
‘Hampshire has seen an increase because of the things that have been done, such as the building of a bus lane through Waterlooville.
‘We can’t do that in Portsmouth because we don’t have that sort of space. The city is so congested. North End in particular is a serious problem, and to a lesser extent Queen Street.
‘There is not a lot you can do to easily resolve it.’
Meanwhile, analysis of the information by the city council showed there were in fact 600,000 fewer journeys, from 11.1m to 10.5m.
Danny Johnson, the council’s passenger transport officer, said he was a bit sceptical about the figures bus operators gave out.
‘I always worry about the numbers the bus operators provide us,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying they’re doing anything underhand, but I think there is under-reporting of numbers provided.’
FIGURES COME AFTER BIG CHANGES WERE MADE TO BUS NETWORK
THE fall in the number of bus journeys comes after big changes were made to the network last year.
While First Bus said they were aimed at improving services, many passengers disagreed.
Fifteen of the operator’s services were then altered across Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Waterlooville.
There were fresh problems this summer after it was announced the number 22, 22A and 22B bus services would stop going to Sainsbury’s Farlington, in Fitzherbert Road, every half an hour and go every 70 minutes instead.
Changes were also made to the 1, 7, 8, X8, X9, 12, 17/18, 22/22A/22B, X40, X41, 43 and 649 to improve the overall reliability of services.
Cllr Jason Fazackarley, cabinet member for traffic and transport, said it was difficult to say whether changes to routes had a serious impact on passenger numbers.
‘It’s difficult to say,’ he said. ‘Bus companies run their business as they see fit.’
Neither First Bus nor Stagecoach was available for comment.