Last autumn local people were horrified to hear that Leckhampton’s regular regular local bus service – the F bus – was soon to be lost. Its operator Marchants, who had struggled for some time to deliver a reliable service, notified Conservative county transport bosses on 17 August that they were pulling out. But Shire Hall were caught asleep at the wheel and didn’t begin ‘formal market engagement’ on a new service until 14 October blaming Stagecoach for the delay.
Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Max Wilkinson, widely tipped to be Cheltenham’s next MP, was quick off the mark supporting Martin and other Lib Dem councillors in their campaigns to save services as soon as the news became public in October. In the end the county subsidised Marchants to run an ’emergency’ replacement L bus service just in time. It is only 16 buses a day not 24. The L bus route is shown below.
It was unclear then how long this would last, especially as no fares are being charged so far, and whether the weekend F bus, scheduled to end this month, would also be replaced. Now Shire Hall have confirmed to Martin that a weekend service with “similar coverage” to the L bus will replace the F and that the contract with Marchants runs at least until November 2023.
Sadly, the freebies are coming to an end though with fares coming as soon as the proper equipment can be fitted to Marchant’s buses.
Martin said ‘This is good news for now and we have time to campaign for a permanent reliable local service now.’
‘In the face of climate change, growing awareness of air pollution and rising fuel costs we should be doing everything possible to encourage and grow public transport. But Conservative leaders at Shire Hall seem to be lurching trom crisis to crisis and presiding over reduced services instead.’