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30th Jun, 2022

WESTMINSTER DIARIES: Battle on to retain rural Solihull bus services

During all my time as MP for the Meriden constituency, I have had to battle to retain many rural bus services, because they depend on a subsidy to keep them going.

Transport for West Midlands have announced another consultation which will review the financially supported bus services within the Solihull area.

It will include the routes across the borough and it’s really important that your views are heard so please do respond by Sunday October 14 after reading the summary of changes here www.networkwestmidlands.com/solihull. TfWM will also be conducting on-bus and at-stop surveys.

I am pleased to see that the service to Balsall Common is to be enhanced to a half hourly service, because this community has expanded significantly and needs more capacity for those of all ages who need public transport.

But some smaller communities are not always so fortunate.

Residents of Fen End and Chiswick Green have signalled to me they are concerned they may be less well served by the changes.

I battled to keep a service to the village of Berkswell, especially once its Post Office was closed despite all our efforts to keep it open.

The bus companies measured the bus usage as one and a half persons per bus and however strange that may seem it does show how difficult it is to justify ongoing subsidy.

It’s a classic case of use it or lose it, but I’m pleased to say it’s proposed that the service to Berkswell should be extended.

This side of our borough is delightfully pretty.

The green belt restrictions have managed to preserve an almost ‘chocolate box’ appearance to villages such as Berkswell and Meriden.

However, being on the edge of the county boundary is a challenge to the provision of public services. Very few of these come across the boundary from Coventry and Warwickshire.

So it is all the more important to strengthen the transport link to Solihull.

But another aspect of this challenge is the need for stronger community transport services as well as good neighbourliness.

This includes offering lifts to those who do not have a car for key appointments such as hospital visits which don’t always fit in with bus times.

The motto of our borough is Urbs in Rure, or Town in the Country, which should extend to urban transport help for those in the countryside so please speak up in the consultation for those you know who need it.

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