PUBLIC transport users have slammed bus services into Leek after being left stranded and late for work – while an additional vehicle has had to be laid on for pupils after they were unable to get to school on time.
Since September 2, Wardle Transport has been operating the regular service between Leek to Cheadle after it was awarded the contract by Staffordshire County Council.
The service was previously operated by Clowes Coaches.
However, users claim that buses have been driving past at stops – and not even turning up at all on some occasions.
In addition, an extra bus service is now operating on weekday mornings into Leek after pupils were left stranded and late for school.
Westwood College students living in the Cheddleton and surrounding areas now have to catch a public bus service – the Wardle number 16 – to get to and from lessons in Leek after Staffordshire County Council stopped a dedicated 53-seater service for them.
The contract to get the youngsters, aged from 13 upwards, to Westwood College was given to Wardle, part of transport giant Arriva, at the beginning of the term.
Stoke-on-Trent-based Wardle yesterday defended its record, saying it didn’t know how many people were using the bus services before.
Val Stanner, aged 57, who works at Porters Cleaners in Leek’s Smithfield Centre and commutes from her home in Cheadle, said: “I use the Number 236, which is supposed to be in Cheadle for 8am.
“However, the first day the contract changed, the bus did not turn up at all. I didn’t get into work until 10.45am that morning, as I then had to arrange someone to bring me into Leek.”
She said that the next day, no bus turned up again and she had to find alternative transport.
She added: “My husband got on the phone to both Wardle and the county council about this. Wardle said that the bus had broken down on both days. On Monday the bus did not stop at all for us. The bus looked quite full but I later heard that the driver did stop in Kingsley to pick some people up even though no-one got off.
“Work have been fine about the times I have been late, but it can’t go on.”
Mrs Stanner added: “I've not had any problems like this before.
“The price has also gone up for a return ticket, from £3.40 to £5, which is another issue.”
District councillor Linda Malyon said: “I have had numerous complaints since the changeover.
“People are very angry about a large increase in fares and that the buses run late.
“Clowes was local and did an excellent job. The contract should never have been taken off it.”
Staffordshire county councillor Simon Tagg, Cabinet Member for Transport and Connected County, said: “We are aware that there have been issues on these services and will be meeting with the operator as a matter of urgency to ensure that we get the service running properly.”
Meanwhile, an extra bus service is now operating on weekday mornings into Leek after the contract to get youngsters to Westwood College was given to Wardle Transport at the beginning of the term.
Over a period of seven school days, there were three occasions when students were left waiting at bus stops due to the vehicle being late or being too full to pick them up, leaving parents to find alternative transport. Since Thursday, an additional number 16 bus is being run to accommodate the 30 students.
Westwood College headteacher Richard Hey said: “The situation with the Number 16 seems to be better.
"There are now two running into Leek at that time. This has certainly helped. There was also concerns as the students were getting on the return bus home from college, but then having to wait on the bus in Leek Bus Station for around 15 minutes for the service to be in-line with its existing one.
“We have now arranged for the bus to pick them up later from college so they do not have such a wait.
“This way, students are still supervised at college while they wait for the bus. I am much happier about this but it has put more pressure on us.”
However, one parent from Cheddleton is concerned about the time it is taking for his daughter and fellow students to get home each evening.
He said: “Clearly, the late arrival home will have a negative effect on homework and coursework for GCSEs and A-Levels.” The parent, who asked not to be named, has written to the county council voicing his concerns.
He added: “If the council is required to cut costs of school transport, funding should be given directly to schools as they would be far better placed to understand local requirements.”
Ben Adams, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the bus operator has let families down and have made it absolutely clear to Arriva that this is totally unacceptable.
“We have raised our concerns, and those of parents and teachers, with senior managers and immediate steps are being taken to ensure a reliable and timely services is provided.
"The service operated on time today (Tuesday), but we will continue to monitor the service on a daily basis to ensure this continues.”
A spokesman for Wardle Transport told the Post & Times: “When we first took on the two services we didn’t realise how many people were using them.
"We have since put on an additional vehicle for the number 16 and a larger vehicle for the number 236. We’re hoping this now improves the situation.”
He added: “With regards to the bus times for picking the students up, we have not had any issues raised with us.”