Mutiny on the buses

Stagecoach buses at Wisbech Horsefair ANL-160418-111129009
Stagecoach buses at Wisbech Horsefair ANL-160418-111129009
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A Fenland grandmother has hit out at a bus operator she claims nearly doubled the cost of her grandchildren’s travel to school without prior notice.

A Facebook campaign has been set up in protest at the rises imposed by Stagecoach, which are affecting hundreds of passengers across the district and neighbouring areas.

But managers claim they still offer good value for money and insist the increases are needed to fund continuing investment in services.

Although the increases have now been in operation for more than two weeks, public anger has mainly focused on the additional costs families are facing getting their children to school following the Easter break.

Among them is Sally Wright, from Wisbech, whose grandchildren Tempany, 15, and Tanisha-Mae Parish, 12, both use Stagecoach buses to travel from the town to the Marshland High School in West Walton.

Before the Easter break, a weekly ticket had cost £9.50 for each of them. But Mrs Wright said she had been shocked to discover that price has now almost doubled to £18.

Although the company has pointed out the overall price of five daily return tickets is much lower, at £12, she described their stance as “ridiculous”. She said: “They never said the fare was going up.”

Mrs Wright said up to 20 Marshland students had been affected, while others going to the Peele Community College in Long Sutton had also been hit in the pocket.

But managers have insisted passengers were informed of the changes ahead of the Easter holiday.

Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach East, said: “The increases have occurred as we move away from individual route tickets to a two-zone system for the region, which will offer passengers unlimited travel within that zone, weekends included. It will also simplify the fare network.

“Any decision to increase fares is not taken lightly. The price rise will allow us to invest more money within the area as we expand our existing fleet – we have already purchased five buses and are looking to buy a further 15 additional vehicles this year – and improve efficiency for passengers.

“Without this investment many services wouldn’t run as they wouldn’t be commercially viable.

“We remain committed to setting fares that are considered to be fair and an affordable level for passengers.”

But a Facebook campaign, Say No to Stagecoach Ticket Increase, has been established in a bid to encourage a boycott of the company’s services.

Passengers across neighbouring West Norfolk have also condemned the increases, while political leaders have demanded an urgent explanation from the firm for its actions.