‘Buses need to be in democratic control’ – Ed Miliband takes two hour bus trip across Doncaster to see state of services

Doncaster MP Ed Miliband has said buses needed to be in ‘democratic control’ so politicians can be held accountable over routes and fares.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 21st March 2022, 4:31 pm

Mr Miliband, who joined the Local Democracy Reporting Service on a two-hour plus bus journey across his constituency, gaged the opinion of dozens of bus users across the borough.

Starting in Campsall, Miliband hopped on the Arriva service which made its way through the village into Askern and through neighbourhoods into the interchange at Doncaster town centre.

Chatting to 32-year mum Sarah Richards who was on her way to work from Askern, she said pricing was an issue for her. She told Mr Miliband that she shells out £68 a month for her journeys to and from her place of work in Doncaster town centre.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Ed Miliband on board a bus from Campsall heading into Doncaster town centre. The Doncaster North MP stepped onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS

“It’s a lot of money, it should be cheaper really, I rely on this service so much,” she said.

Amelia Hartley, 31, who hopped on the bus in Askern, also raised her concerns to Mr Miliband.

She had praise for the Arriva service but said that First, who are the main operators in the borough, were ‘not so good’.

She hit out at the Sunday service in Askern which starts at 930 am and runs every two hours, much to the surprise of Miliband.

Ed Miliband on board a bus from Campsall heading into Doncaster town centre. The Doncaster North MP stepped onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS

Ms Hartley took a phone call from her father and passed the phone onto Miliband for a short chat on the way to town.

“You’ll never guess who I’m sat chatting to on the bus, Dad,” she said.

The service rolled through Miliband’s Doncaster North constituency of Sutton, Owston, Toll Bar, Bentley and into the town centre interchange where he stopped to chat to the driver before posing for a selfie.

This prompted a long-line of perplexed passengers waiting to board the bus to see what was going on. Miliband then spoke to a couple of people in the line who also raised some concerns.

Ed Miliband on board a bus from Campsall heading into Doncaster town centre. The Doncaster North MP stepped onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS

“Sometimes the buses just don’t turn up, you can be standing for hours waiting for one,” said one woman.

A short walk across the interchange to the 87 service stop to Moorends before joining the packed single-decker on its way to the edge of the borough.

Miliband chatted to 74-year-old Sandra, a former nurse of more than 40 years who told the MP she had to move from her Isle of Axholme home because the bus services were cut off altogether some years ago.

“The bus service is hit and miss, it’s the reliability part for me, they don’t always turn up or at the least, they’re late,” she said.

Ed Miliband speaking to passengers at the bus interchange in Doncaster town centre. The Doncaster North MP stepped onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS

Sandra also said that Stainforth ‘seemed to get a better service’ than Moorends despite being close by.

Reaching the final destination of Moorends, Miliband met two pensioners who have been campaigning for a better service from the village to nearby Thorne for the last few years.

Mary Goodwin, 72, and Mavis Wooldrige, 87, have met Miliband before about the problem and bemoaned an unsuccessful meeting with bosses at First about trying to reverse previous cuts.

They want at least one service to reroute to serve the Sainsbury’s and Lidl supermarkets in Thorne where they both meet up with friends.

The pair said they had initially wanted to change the service completely but now they just want one service to slightly re-route to serve the supermarkets.

“I feel like giving up to be honest, it’s been such a draining experience,” Mavis said.

Ed Miliband at the bus interchange in Doncaster town centre. The Doncaster North MP stepped onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS

“These changes affect people like me, I’m not great on my feet and this has a knock on effect for pensioners trying to access services in this area.

“I sometimes feel that we’re the forgotten village in Moorends, we’re not being listened to,” she added.”

Reflecting on the mammoth bus journey across his Doncaster constituency, Miliband said: “It’s been a really important experience for me to learn what people are actually saying about the buses.

“What I’ve taken out of it is that it’s a really important service and it really matters to people but there are issues.

“There are issues about the services and the frequency of buses – once every two hours on a Sunday from what people in Askern and Campsall were telling me – that’s not much of a service for people.

“There are issues around price and issues around reliability. I think the drivers have to have some real praise for working through Covid and they’ve done a really important job.

“But the companies have some real questions to answer and then just hearing about the continuing issue in Moorends about where the bus stops – this makes for democratic control of the bus service.

“This is about having regulated services where elected politicians make the decisions and are accountable for services. This is a crucial issue and it’s one I’ll keep campaigning for.

“Price is a real issue as well – I heard about people paying £68 a month from one lady and how much it’s costing her.

“We also heard from people saying that buses just don’t come and also information is an issue about people knowing or not if the bus is going to come. I heard about when a less frequent service was introduced and people had no information about it.

“Above all though, this is a vital service and the environment is a big issue as well. If we move to electric buses we can cut air pollution and cut the running costs as well so there’s so much to do and there’s so much of a difference we can make.”

A bus heading to Moorends. Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband stepped onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS
Ed Miliband speaks to bus campaigners Mary Goodwin (L) and Mavis Wooldrige in Moorends. The Doncaster North MP step onto buses in his constituency to speak to passengers about the state of the services. Credit: George Torr/LDRS