Bus operator in Stone urged to bring back vehicles with lower floors
PASSENGERS are calling for a firm to change its buses after claims elderly people are struggling to board vehicles without low floors.
People in Stone say the new services also do not cater for disabled passengers or those with pushchairs.
Bennetts, which already operates services in Stafford, was awarded a new contract by Staffordshire County Council to cover nine routes through Stone.
The services had previously been provided by a mixture of low-floor and traditional-style buses.
Call WHITEGATES Today 01782 209935 ..Limited offer. Available only up on production of voucher. Sell your home for £399 plus vat.* #EPC is required to market your home not included in offer.
Terms: *Upfront payment, non-refundable in the event of property remaining unsold, being withdrawn from the market or being sold by another agent, yourself or by any other means.#EPC £62.50 plus vat.
Contact: 01782 209 935
Valid until: Thursday, July 04 2013
But after it was awarded the routes last month, the firm decided to use only new buses with higher floors.
Stone councillor Jill Hood, who is a trustee for Age Concern Stone, said: "It's absolutely disgraceful. I am having calls from elderly residents who are in their 90s and who are becoming prisoners in their own homes because they cannot physically get on the bus.
"People with Zimmer frames or prams are struggling to get on and off too. They are becoming trapped because they are unable to use public transport. Stone High Street needs all the customers it can get at the moment and this is affecting the amount of people who shop in the town, so it is having a direct effect on the local economy.
"We have quite a large population of elderly residents in Stone so something has got to be done about this."
Bus passenger Ina Bodmore, of Stone, has seen people struggle with their prams. The 51-year-old said: "I can't see in this day and age why the bus hasn't got the low floors.
"Women with pushchairs really struggle because the doorways are quite narrow too."
Dave Taylor, aged 63, also of Stone, said: "This issue has been overlooked by the council. It is a shambles."
Bennetts confirmed the decision to use vehicles which did not have low floors offered 'the best value for money', but the firm was unavailable to comment further.
Stone MP Bill Cash has offered his support to residents. He said: "My constituents are extremely concerned about this change as many in Stone and the surrounding areas will depend on this transport.
"I have taken the matter up with Staffordshire County Council and the bus company to seek a resolution."
There is no legal requirement for Staffordshire County Council to run low-floor buses until 2015 but it confirmed it plans to reinstate them.
Council transport chief Mike Maryon said it specified low-floor buses when the route's contract went out to tender and has since made its expectations clear to the operator.
He said: "We subsidise this route to ensure people in Stone have the option of public transport, and while of course it is important to provide value for money for taxpayers, we are not prepared to compromise on the level or quality of service we offer residents and plan to ensure the low-floor bus is on the road as swiftly as possible."