Plans to axe two popular bus routes in Leeds have sparked outrage amid fears it will 'cut Leeds communities' off and stop them from accessing shopping centres.
Residents in Whinmoor and Temple Newsam will sorely miss the X26 and X27 First Bus services as routes to Thorpe Park and Cross Gates. Leeds City Councillors for the wards have hit out at the bus company, asking for the decision to cut the services to be reversed.
They've said getting to these centres will now be much more difficult and have suggested it would make people's lives more costly, putting an "enormous strain on our communities".
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The furious councillors wrote the following letter to First Bus: "Last week, as local councillors, we received notification that two bus services in our area, operated by First Bus have been designated for withdrawal: X26/X27 — Leeds — Thorpe Park. Service to be withdrawn.
"We are disappointed that First Bus offered no consultation with the community or ourselves prior to the decision to withdraw these important bus services. If consultation had taken place, we would have set out in the strongest terms the key role that the X26 / X27 play in our local economy. Both bus routes service local shopping centres.
"Although we welcome the additional service arranged to part replace the aforementioned routes, it is not an adequate replacement for the full commercial route. Therefore, the withdrawal of these routes makes accessing Thorpe Park and Cross Gates centre much more difficult - for the public and workers alike.
"We are conscious that the West Yorkshire Mayor, Tracy Brabin, campaigned successfully for an extension to the Bus Recovery Grant (BRG), which First benefited from directly. Therefore, it was our expectation that the current network would be maintained. The cost of living crisis is putting an enormous strain on our communities.
"The withdrawal of regular bus services to our economic and social centres will only serve to exacerbate a difficult situation. We therefore ask you to reconsider your decision. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you in person."
The letter was signed by: Cross Gates and Whinmoor councillors James Gibson, Jess Lennox, Pauleen Grahame; and Temple Newsam councillors Debra Coupar, Helen Hayden and Nicole Sharpe. All Labour.
What First Bus says
Paul Matthews, Managing Director of First West Yorkshire, said: “Our services continue to adapt to changing travel behaviour and a new post-pandemic level of demand, with a significant downturn in passenger numbers for certain routes. The trend is clear from our data that passengers do not use the X26 and X27 services in sufficient numbers and are unlikely to return in the future.
“We have looked carefully at how we can help to maintain connections and have adapted the 19 and 19A route to serve Thorpe Park at peak times during the day. Customers can also take advantage of the FlexiBus service, which we operate on behalf of the Combined Authority. This provides good connections to Thorpe Park from local areas including Cross Gates, Whinmoor and Temple Newsam.
“The changes we have introduced are part of an ongoing review of our whole network together with the Combined Authority, which is a condition of the Government support funding measures. We shared our proposed changes to services with the Combined Authority in the spirit of transparency and partnership working, providing as much advance notice as possible to allow time for discussion and to seek alternative arrangements.
“We recognise the impact changes will have in parts of the community and are sorry for anyone affected. It is also important that we focus our resources where the demand is needed given the ongoing issue of driver shortages and the importance for customers that we can provide the most reliable services across the network we operate.
“We will continue to monitor our networks as part of our full cooperation with the Combined Authority’s broader network review with a view to being agile and ready to adapt frequencies and connections in line with customer demand.”
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