Councillors say Stagecoach has 'let Northampton down' and brand bus services 'unacceptable'

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Fury over reliability, “rubbish” vehicles and cuts in services

A leading councillor says Stagecoach has “let Northampton down” and branded the bus operator's actions “unacceptable”.

Councillor Phil Larratt, who holds the transport portfolio for Conservative-run West Northamptonshire, says the area needs a new operator to come in to take on the bus giant.

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Councillors branded the state of bus services 'unacceptable' and say operator Stagecoach is 'letting Northampton down'Councillors branded the state of bus services 'unacceptable' and say operator Stagecoach is 'letting Northampton down'
Councillors branded the state of bus services 'unacceptable' and say operator Stagecoach is 'letting Northampton down'

The firm also claims disruption on its routes are mostly down to the roadworks rather than mechanical issues or driver shortages.

Labour's Keith Holland-Delamere raised the issue of proposed cuts to services by Stagecoach at the end of October and accused the firm of giving the town an “appalling service”.

He told a council meeting on Thursday (September 29): “There has been a number of issues with Northampton service in terms of reliability with cancellations, deteriorating maintenance of bus fleet, driver recruitment and retention.

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“With all these reliability problems, there is no alternative for many people than to use cars instead of public transport.”

Councillors also pointed to the firm using older vehicles from other areas as far away as Scotland to bolster its fleet.

Cllr Larratt added: “Stagecoach has let Northampton down in terms of quality of buses. Their actions are unacceptable.

“How many times do I see former Lothian buses polluting Northampton because they take their good buses and put them elsewhere and we end up with the rubbish.”

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Stagecoach admits it has been battling staffing issues for around 18 months, leading to daily cancellations on town routes

It says a number of changes due to start on October 30 will help provide a more “robust and reliable” service

But the firm insisted Cllr Larratt’s claim was “inaccurate” and that extra buses it hired in to provide extra capacity for social distancing during the height of the Covid pandemic were removed from Northampton's fleet more than a year ago.

A statement added: “To receive apparent criticism for responding positively to the needs of key works and customer needs at that time now is disappointing and shows a lack of understanding about the contribution of Stagecoach to the bus services in West Northamptonshire.”

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It added: “Many of our challenges around reliability of service are not related to the driver shortage or mechanical issues.

"The majority of delay and disruption to our services is caused by congestion and disruption on the highway network resulting from the many roadworks taking place.”

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Cllr Holland-Delamere, who represents Billing & Rectory Farm, voiced concerns over the removal of a Sunday service on route 88 between Northampton and Towcester from the end of October.

He said: “This will cut public transport links between the town and the south of the county.”

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A Stagecoach statement said: “The changes in October follow a review that has involved West Northamptonshire Council and it is important that we make these service changes to ensure our network of services is sustainable for our customers, who over the past year made 10.5 million journeys with us.”