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FIRST Group are expected to withdraw their 234 Frome to Chippenham service – which stops in Melksham over 45 times per day – next month. The route is expected to be serviced instead by Faresaver’s x34.
The service connects residents to Trowbridge, Frome, and Chippenham, as well as a number of smaller towns and villages. The service is likely to be deregistered at the end of July.
Faresaver have announ-ced that they will be continuing their parallel x34 service, and increasing its journeys to include Saturday services and stops in Rode.
A Faresaver spokesperson said, “Having recently heard the news that First Bus are cancelling the 234 service from Chippenham to Frome via Melksham and Trowbridge, we have been working hard to ensure that there will be a comprehensive service on this corridor from 2nd August 2015. Our existing service is already double the frequency of the old First service.
“We have now registered some additional journeys with the authorities which includes a Saturday service and servicing Rode on an hourly basis. The timetable is ‘fresh off the press’ and subject to confirmation from The Traffic Commissioner’s office.”
Graham Ellis, part of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership, regularly campaigns for improved public transport in the area.
Graham said, “I’m sad to learn that First Bus have deregistered the 234 bus route from Chippenham via Melksham to Trowbridge and Frome, but not surprised.
“During much of the daytime on Monday to Friday, three buses per hour have been operating on the 234 and very similar x34 route from Faresaver, with competing buses running closely behind each other, both with far more seats than passengers.
“It’s frustrating that a sensible reduction in bus capacity on the Chippenham to Frome corridor potentially goes too far. Full withdrawal of the 234 could mean no early morning weekday buses (08.50 earliest arrival into Chippenham), mid-afternoon service gaps of over 90 minutes, and no evening services (last service from Chippenham at 17.15).”
Graham believes that a potential saving of over £500,000 for First could have been a motivating force behind the deregistration.
He continued, “From general information about the cost of operating buses, the cost to First of running three vehicles including early and late and Saturday services has probably been about 0.75 million pounds per annum.
“The cost to Faresaver of running six vehicles limited to Monday to Friday daytime, and doubling up those vehicles for use on school runs, will have been about 0.9 million pounds per annum – so total operation cost of the route around £1.65million.
“Removing duplicated services would have little effect on passenger numbers on the route, and would save over half a million pounds in operating costs.
“It should actually be a good move, allowing surplus capacity to be used in providing other services and for some efficiency savings.
“Unfortunately, the changes as currently specified by the removal of route 234 do rather more than remove duplicated services, and as the services are both ‘commercial’ the reduced costs to First, and the increased income to Faresaver, goes to the shareholders and directors of those companies rather than to meeting the needs of travellers in Wiltshire, where other services and routes are crying out for improvement and retention.”
To find out more about bus services in the area visit www.firstgroup.com and www.faresaver.co.uk.