Barbara has welcomed the decision by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA) to save the 553 bus service, which links Boothstown with Walkden, Farnworth and Bolton.
This is in addition to an earlier decision by bus operators First Manchester to retain the threatened 32 Wigan-Manchester service, although other constituents will still be left with poorer services following the latest round of changes.
Eariler this year, bus operators First Manchester announced that they would withdraw both the 32 and 553 services, and terminate the 33 service at Worsley, instead of continuing on to Leigh. Following the intervention of Barbara Keeley MP on behalf of her constituents First Manchester initially agreed to retain the 32 service on a commercial basis, with only very minor changes to the route.
This would still have left Boothstown residents without cars, including the elderley and disabled, with no way of getting to vital facilities in local centres such as Walkden and Farnworth.
In February, Barbara raised this issue in the Commons, where she told Ministers:
“An elderly constituent informed me that many pensioners whom she knows travel from Boothstown to Farnworth because it has the only Asda store locally. However to get there now pensioners would have to change buses in the middle of Walkden, cross a busy dual carriageway, and walk 500 metres uphill to a different bus stop. Many elderly people are now simply unable to make that journey to do their shopping, because that changed route is too difficult.”
Barbara also made representations to First Manchester, and met with the Chair of the GMPTA, Salford Councillor Roger Jones, passing on concerns that many local people had expressed to her since the changes were announced. As a result, GMPTA has decided to subsidise the 533 service, which will continue to run every hour between Boothstown and Bolton. The service will continue to be operated by First Manchester.
“It is really good news that both the 32 and 553 bus services have been saved, and I am pleased that the GMPTA and First Manchester have been able to work together for the benefit of local people. Many people have contacted me over the past few months to object to the cuts, and I have worked hard to put the case for keeping our bus services.
"I am still unhappy that services are being withdrawn on the Wigan side of the constituency, and I will be monitoring the situation closely. I am also concerned that some constituents have been left without a convenient bus service due to the re-routing of the number 12 service.
"My position has always been clear – if we are to reduce car use and congestion in Worsley, there will need to major improvements in our public transport, and certainly no further cuts or major route changes” .