Worcester was one of many areas of England that did not receive any of the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan funding, and some of the city’s commercial bus routes now face withdrawal due to low passenger numbers and no funding to attract them back on board
First Worcester has announced significant changes to its bus services in Worcestershire from 1 May. The firm advised customers: “The covid pandemic has had a significant impact on bus patronage nationally, our habits and way-of-life have changed immeasurably. We’re making changes to our services in accordance with how and when people are travelling across the working week and at weekends.”
Amongst the changes to 11 services, the most significant is the withdrawal of the long-standing 144 route between Worcester and Birmingham. A bus service has operated between the two cities since June 1913, with the 144 service number having been in use on the route since February 1928.
Bus users of ‘The Malverns’ 44 service will also see a revised service, with the last through bus leaving Worcester at 1730hrs and the Sunday service being removed completely.
Explaining the changes, Managing Director at First Worcester Nigel Eggleton said: “The upcoming service changes we have planned for 1 May are to re-align our bus network in accordance with how and when people are travelling across the working week and at weekends. As everyone will be aware the Covid-19 pandemic has changed many things including, 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. These have all had an impact on bus services in Worcester and throughout the country.
“Our 144 service has been established for many years and has served people very well, linking Worcester with Droitwich, Bromsgrove, Catshill and Birmingham. However for over 12 months now, we have carried very few people between Catshill and Birmingham, resulting in us having to make this difficult decision to remove the link to Birmingham. The changes planned for 1 May are to help improve reliability between locations along the route between Worcester and Bromsgrove and facilitate provision where there is consistent demand and use
“We are working closely with Worcestershire County Council and Transport for West Midlands to determine if there is any funding available to support the planned withdrawal of service between Catshill and Birmingham and we will update everyone with progress on these conversations.”
Worcester City services 31 and 37 were due to be withdrawn after service on 30 April, and service 32 revised, but on 14 April a spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council said: “We have agreed that the 31, 32 and 37 services will continue as normal for the next three months, and are continuing to explore options with First for the future.