SOME of Middlewich’s most vulnerable residents are calling for their old bus service to return after being left cut off by a timetable change.

D&G Bus changed the timetable of the 42 between Congleton and Crewe in September – axing Centurion Way, King Street, Elm Road and the Bull Ring from the route.

The firm says it was no longer able to keep running an hourly service with all the stops and insists the move has not affected passenger numbers.

But 34 Middlewich residents turned out to a public meeting to hit out at the move last Thursday – leaving the simple message: “We just want our bus back.”

Vera Roddy, from Pennymoor Drive, used to catch the 42 bus from Centurion Way.

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“I now have to walk into Middlewich if I want to catch the bus to Congleton,” she said.

“It’s a 30 minute walk there for me, and then a 30 minute walk back home.”

The new route means that residents near to Elm Road who want to catch the 42 bus towards Crewe and Leighton Hospital now have to cross Booth Lane.

Colin Bailey, from the Kitfield estate, said: “My concern is safety. Booth Lane is one of the busiest roads in Middlewich.

“There are one or two people I know that have stopped getting the 42 completely because they are frightened to death of crossing Booth Lane.

“I am 82 and I am still pretty fit – I can take my chances and get across that road. But some people have just given up trying to get the 42 because they cannot cross that road.”

Other residents spoke out about the impact on schoolchildren who need the bus to get to Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School, as well as people struggling to get to appointments at Leighton Hospital.

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Carol Jones, from the Crewe and District Bus Users Group, chaired the meeting and offered to support Middlewich residents who wanted to set up their own volunteer group for bus users.

Following the meeting, Cllr Carol Bulman, Labour Cheshire East Council member for Middlewich, said: “Nationally there have been 40 per cent cuts to bus budgets, and CEC cut its own budget last year.

“It is bound to have an effect and it is impacting on vulnerable people, some who are in their 80s and 90s. They just want their bus back.”

Chris Almond, bus network manager at D&G Bus, told the Guardian that his company could no longer run the 42 bus as regularly as required by the contract it holds with CEC if it continued to stop along the old route.

The company says it requested more resources from CEC to take on an extra bus for the 42 before being left to cut the route.

Mr Almond said: “Over the years as the service has developed, it has become busier and busier and the traffic is getting worse and worse.

“The council pays for us to run three buses with an hourly service. It got to the point where we could no longer continue what we were doing.

“We went to the council and said either the route will need changing or you will need to invest in additional vehicles for the route.

“The route has been changed for 10 weeks now and we have not seen a change in the number of passengers using it.”

A CEC spokesman added: “The specification for this service was developed as part of the council’s bus service review, implemented in 2018. However, the operator has experienced persistent difficulties in running to the specified timetable.

“All public bus services are registered with the Traffic Commissioners, who set stringent targets for punctuality and reliability. Unfortunately, the 42 service regularly missed these targets.

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“Action was needed to be taken to address the poor performance of this service and, following a study of passenger use, it was felt that a section of the route, which recorded only limited use, should be removed from the timetable. This allowed for more running time leading to better reliability.

“With alternative bus stops close by, this change has had little impact on total passenger numbers, which have met our expectations. The service is more reliable and punctual and there have been few complaints.”

Passengers who are left without a service could qualify for CEC’s Flexilink dial-a-ride bus, which can pick up residents who are either aged 80 or above, registered disabled or have no access to alternative public transport.

For more information call 0300 123 5110.

Any concerns or complaints about the 42 should be passed onto D&G by emailing info@dgbus.co.uk