Councillors call on businesses to fund well-used Europarc bus service
Councillor John Fenty says businesses at the Europarc should pay for Stagecoach service which transports thousands of workers each year
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 13 Oct 2017
Councillors have called on firms at Grimsby's Europarc to pay for a vital bus service used by thousands of workers each year.
As reported, North East Lincolnshire Council officers have suggested the authority ends its subsidy for Stagecoach to provide the number 1 Europarc bus service - a move which they estimate could save some £221,000 over three years.
They also want to scrap the Saturday service altogether, meaning only one bus per hour will travel to the business park between Monday and Friday.
During a Special Economy Scrutiny Panel meeting at Grimsby Town Hall on Wednesday night, councillors voted in favour of a proposal put forward to the council's Cabinet, urging the council to pull its subsidy with the hope businesses will plug the gap.
Counillor John Fenty said: "Having a business on the Europarc I know just how important the bus service is. Growth continues and businesses continue to prosper from it.
Europarc business park, off the A180, Grimsby
"I personally don't believe the council should be subsidising this service anymore. I think we should be looking to business to work with Stagecoach to make up the difference if it's necessary and then Stagecoach can make the justification for this support if it's really necessary.
"That way business will drive a bus through it, for want of a better description, to see whether it's genuinely needed or not. I honestly believe we should be withdrawing.
"I believe they won't take the service away and I hope I'm right in thinking that. I think that if there was a real risk of that then business will come to the rescue and part fund it because it's them who benefit from it."
Currently the number 1, 2 and 20 bus services operate Monday to Saturday at a frequency of two buses, or three at peak times during the morning and evening rush hour.
The recommendation to reduce buses comes despite a surge in demand for the Stagecoach-run service.
The Stagecoach bus timetable for buses to and from Grimsby's Europarc business park, off the A180
In just three years the number of passengers travelling to and from Grimsby and Cleethorpes to Europarc has gone up by over 15,000 a year.
And councillor Fenty said it should be up to businesses to help pay for the service if it is necessary for its workers.
He added that such a measure could be phased over a period of time.
"When all is said and done, the jobs aren't going to disappear and the businesses will still want those people to get to work," he added.
"There is a solution in there somewhere and I don't believe it's for the council to subsidise Europarc anymore."
Councillor Ian Barfield accused Stagecoach of "holding this council to ransom" over its subsidy demands.
Councillor Kathryn Wheatley said she would be "very unhappy" if the council removed its subsidy for the Europarc bus service
"I have a problem with this whole thing. I've looked at the results from Stagecoach for the last five years and this is a company which, before it got itself embroiled in trains, was making £116 million a year. On this route the usage has gone up...they have seen massive increase in their revenue on this route," he said.
"I feel like they are holding this council to ransom. They play this game too often where they just continually threaten to withdraw services unless we give them more money."
He added that, while he has sympathy with those calling on the council to continue its subsidy to keep the service alive, he feared that by doing so the local authority would be "playing into the hands of Stagecoach."
But councillor Kathryn Wheatley said workers' livelihoods would be put at risk if the service was stopped."
"We need more information about this. I would be very unhappy if we withdraw the full subsidy.
Councillor Karl Wilson said he was also wary about the possibility of the council ending its subsidy.
"If business want to fund it that's fine. If Stagecoach want to fund it that's fine. But the service must stay where it is," he said.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach said: "We have not yet formally discussed any resolutions from the Scrutiny Meeting with North East Lincolnshire Councillors or Transport Officers. Consequently, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the outcomes from the meeting at this stage.
"Stagecoach East Midlands operates almost all of the bus services in Grimsby Cleethorpes on a commercial basis, which means that the fares collected by our drivers and the reimbursement for free concessionary pass journeys have to cover the cost of running the buses.
"The Europarc bus service is subsidised by the Council but, as you would expect, the level of financial support has reduced as patronage on the route has increased."