Anger as 'lifeline for so many' bus service axed
A bus service described as a lifeline by residents on outlying city estates is to end next month after efforts to secure alternative funding failed.
Leicester bus firm Centrebus Ltd said its number 302 service, travelling between the city centre and Beaumont Leys, via Narborough Road, Braunstone and New Parks, was no longer commercially viable.
It had initially told customers the service would stop in December, blaming increased fuel costs and other "inflationary pressures" for its decision.
Leicester City Council stepped in to fund the service until March 31 after Centrebus said proposed roadworks in Charles Street was also a factor.
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Dave Shelley, commercial director of Centrebus, said: "Unfortunately, we have been advised by the city council there will be no more funding after the end of March, so the service will not continue past that date."
Centrebus's decision to end the 302 service prompted a storm of protest from residents, with more than 400 people signing a petition to save it.
Janet Statham, 62, of Hand Avenue, Braunstone, who organised the petition, said: "I'm so disappointed. When the council stepped in it gave us hope something could be sorted out.
"It's a lifeline for so many people, including schoolchildren, people travelling to work – and especially sick or elderly people, as the 302 is the only bus to stop at both the royal infirmary and Glenfield hospitals.
"Without a decent bus service, how are people going to get to routine hospital appointments from Braunstone and other estates?
"If they can't afford a taxi then organising an ambulance is the only other option. It's madness to get rid of such an important bus service."
Braunstone city councillor Wayne Naylor, who sits on the council's bus users panel, handed the petition in to last month's full council meeting.
"It's a great shame Centrebus has not managed to find alternative sources of funding to keep the 302 bus going," he said.
"What annoys me most is that this bus route was introduced back in 2000 after various tenants and residents' associations proved there was a need for the service.
"Not so long ago, Braunstone was classified as one of the most deprived parts of the country.
"People who don't have a car absolutely rely on the service to get to work and, even more so in a recession."
Centrebus said it had been in talks with the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and universities about financial support.
But Mr Shelley, of Centrebus, said nothing substantive had come from the discussions.
"We have had some discussions, together with the council, with other parties and these have progressed positively," he said.
"However, it is reasonable to say that the funding gap is significant.
"I assume that the city council has taken a view that the gap is unlikely to be bridged in the future and has taken its decision on that basis."
A city council spokeswoman said: "When Centrebus announced its plans to axe the 302 service, it cited proposed roadworks on Charles Street as a factor for the decision.
"Although those works didn't take place, the city council stepped in with an emergency subsidy to allow the service to continue until March 31 and to give the company time to explore other options.
"We've tried to help it find a solution, but it appears that Centrebus has taken a commercial decision to axe the service."