Bus firm blames WFH for axing century-old service to Birmingham | Transportation

A 108-year-old bus service linking Bromsgrove and Birmingham is to be axed because so many people are now working from home, a transport boss has said.

The 144 service, which has run between Worcester, Bromsgrove and Birmingham since 1914, is being cut back at the end of April. The service will now run just between Worcester and Bromsgrove, which is 13 miles outside Birmingham.

Nigel Eggleton, the managing director at First Worcester, which runs the service, said that “for over 12 months now, we have carried very few people” on the route, “resulting in us having to make this difficult decision to remove the link to Birmingham”.

He attributed the decline in passenger numbers to the Covid pandemic, saying factors such as “people working from home, flexible working patterns, confidence in being around public places and the use of other modes of travel to get around avoiding congested places” have all had an impact on service use.

He said the move was part of upcoming changes to “realign our bus network in accordance with how and when people are traveling across the working week and at weekends”.

Local residents have hit back at the plans, saying many people still rely on the route to commute into the city, and over 2,000 have signed a petition calling for the service to stay.

“It will obviously take a certain while before people get back to normal and into their place of work instead of home. But people are now slowly returning to the workplace and they’re relying on the bus to get there,” said Bromsgrove councilor Peter McDonald.

“After 100 years of this bus route making a profit, it seems rather selfish for them to say it’s stopping now. It’s going to have a devastating impact on the people who do rely on the bus to get to work. It’s creating a lot of anxiety for people.”

Earlier this month, research by the Campaign for Better Transport found that more than one in four bus services in England have been cut in the last decade, with the pandemic accelerating the decline.

Services fell by 18% during the pandemic, compared with a 10% decline in the years to 2019.

Eggleton said the operator was “working closely with Worcestershire county council and Transport for West Midlands to determine if there is any funding available” to maintain the service, adding that “we will update everyone with progress on these conversations”.

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