South Wootton woman launches bus fares petition

New petition against Stagecoach fares. Mellissa  Ibbitson leading on-line campaign. ANL-160421-122625009

New petition against Stagecoach fares. Mellissa Ibbitson leading on-line campaign. ANL-160421-122625009

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Hundreds of people have signed an online petition calling for big fare rises imposed by a West Norfolk bus operator to be reversed.

Stagecoach bosses have been accused of adopting a “blunderbuss” approach to its pricing amid continuing anger over the increases.

But the company is refusing to back down over the increases, insisting it still offers value for money to the travelling public.

More than 400 people have so far signed the petition, which was set up on the change.org campaign website on Tuesday.

It calls on North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham to lobby Stagecoach to reduce the increases, which critics say have more than doubled the cost of some journeys for schoolchildren.

The petition was set up by Melissa Ibbitson, from South Wootton, as a spin-off from a Facebook campaign, which has also been backed by hundreds of people.

In it, Miss Ibbitson said that, while there had been fare rises in the past, they had not made it “completely unrealistic” to use the service.

She said: “We need a change and we need it now. Let’s get together to get these prices lowered.”

Sir Henry has welcomed the petition and said he was working with North East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay on the issue.

The pair have jointly written to Stagecoach’s regional managing director, Andy Campbell, to voice their concerns. But Sir Henry said that, while there was still time for managers to resolve the problem, they would go to the company’s chief executive if they did not get an adequate response.

He said: “This is a blunderbuss approach that is upsetting a lot of people and increasing the financial burden for a lot of people.”

The company has previously said the changes are part of its plans to introduce a new, zonal fare system across its network.

Sir Henry said he was open to discussions about that, but said the introduction of such a system should be the subject of wider public consultation.

He also maintained that such dramatic increases as the ones the company had imposed were unacceptable.

Stagecoach officials declined to make any further comment on the issue when approached by the Lynn News yesterday.

Instead, they referred back to a statement issued last week in which Mr Campbell said: “Any decision to increase fares is not taken lightly.

“The price rise will allow us to invest more money within the area as we expand our existing fleet and improve efficiency for passengers.

“Without this investment many services wouldn’t run as they wouldn’t be commercially viable.

“We remain committed to setting fares that are 
considered to be fair and an 
affordable level for passengers.”

The petition can be found at www.change.org under the heading Get Stagecoach buses to lower their prices.