Upset over bus service changes 'taking shine off shiny new station' in South Shields, claims Green councillor
Bus service changes in South Shields are having an impact on traders and elderly residents, councillors have claimed.
The £21million transport interchange was opened to the public in August, after several weeks of line closures on the Metro.
The striking copper-topped building, which includes a new bus station and relocated Metro station, is part of South Tyneside Council’s ‘365 regeneration plans’ for the town.
Following consultation with bus operators, the development saw a bus service shake-up with changes to timetables and bus stops.
At a full council meeting on September 5, Coun David Francis said changes were made “without fully considering the impact on passengers and local businesses.”
“Although we have a shiny new station, the shine has been taken off a little bit in the eyes of some people and particularly some of the people that I was elected to represent,” he told the meeting.
“Since the interchange opened, some of the routes and bus stops serving Beacon and Bents ward have been changed, which has made it more difficult for residents, in particular the older and less mobile, to travel to the town centre both for shopping facilities and much-needed social contact.”
He added the changes were also impacting on local businesses.
“Several local businesses have also reported that since the route changes they have seen vastly reduced footfall and are in some cases losing £500-£600 a week,” he said.
“That doesn’t seem like a good advert for regeneration when local businesses are feeling such a squeeze as I suspect the Customs House might if a new cinema opens.”
Concerns about residents accessing bus services were also echoed by independent councillor, John Robertson.
Labour cabinet member for regeneration and economy, Coun John Anglin, said the changes paved the way for a wider regeneration vision for the town.
While admitting there had been complaints and signage issues, he urged councillors to look at the “bigger picture”.
He said:“I think what you will find with any change, especially in the first weeks and months, there is a lot of confusion and difficulty because people don’t like change.
“The older we become it becomes worse, what has happened is that we gave a guarantee that we would transform the town centre of South Shields.
“To do that. some of the roadways and pathways had to go so that we can build the big shops and the cinema which is in phase three which you will begin to see next year.
“I have had a number of complaints much more in the first week and to be perfectly honest, I can understand it especially if you’re older as you do walk initially 50 yards longer.
“If you’re going into Morrisons or anywhere like that you walk 100 yards without even noticing.
“Yes there is slightly further to walk but I think in the grand scheme it’s a place now that South Shields can be proud of.”
The comments came during a discussion on the progress of the South Shields 365 master plan.
Works include moving bus routes away from Church Way and Chapter Row and new stops on Coronation Street to free up space for ‘phase three’ of the regeneration plan.
Metro operator Nexus is now in the process of transferring the land at the former South Shields station to the council for public realm improvements.
This includes demolishing the former station with the cleared site being transformed into a pedestrian route through to King Street.
The removal of bus stands on Keppel Street is set to be completed by October.
While works for ‘interchange square’ are set to be completed by summer 2020.
Coun Anglin added that new bus routes helped bring people into the main areas of town near Asda.
“When you go into that new interchange and you see all those people in there they’re together and they’re smiling, that’s what we want,” he said.
“Now what we want to do is go on and with that space that we have created, we want to build part three of our 365.”
Coun David Francis, speaking after the meeting, said he did not accept that concerns stemmed from the claim that “people don’t like change”.
He also claimed the rerouted bus routes favoured big business and could have a real cost on local traders.
Bus services affected under the transport interchange shake-up:
Stagecoach: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 17/18, 30, E1, E2, E6, X20.
Go North East: 5, 20, 50, 960
For more information, visit: www.nexus.org.uk/bus.