Anger erupts over bombshell plans to axe vital bus services from two estates in Market Harborough

Both the leader of the council and Harborough's MP are opposed to the plans

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Anger has erupted over bombshell plans to axe a vital bus service from two big estates in Market Harborough.

A storm has blown up as bus giant Arriva said it wants to pull its X3 service out of the town’s Southern Estate and fast-growing Farndon Fields estate.

The huge national operator is also gearing up to cut the frequency of the X3 between Market Harborough, Kibworth, Great Glen and Leicester from half hourly to every hour from Tuesday January 4.

All buses would terminate at the Market Hall in Market Harborough’s town centre.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien and Cllr Phil King, the leader of Harborough District Council, are now fighting to set up crunch talks with Arriva bosses as the highly-controversial scheme emerged.

This afternoon Cllr King told the Harborough Mail: “These proposed changes would have a big impact on people and communities across Harborough.

“So I am keen to sit down alongside our MP Neil O’Brien to talk to Arriva as soon as possible.

“Time is of the essence as Arriva wants to introduce these changes from the start of January.

“In an ideal world the company would think again.

“But they are running a commercial venture and if they are losing passengers and money then they will act,” said the council chief.

“But we all need to get together urgently so that we can understand what their long-term thinking and strategy is here.

“These changes would have a two-fold impact – both on their passengers in our towns and villages and on our environment.

“People living on both the Southern Estate and on Farndon Fields in Market Harborough will clearly be affected.

“Bus-users living in communities such as Great Glen and Kibworth on the X3’s route on the A6 will also be hit.

“These people implicitly rely on the reliability and regularity of their local bus services.

“So where would these changes leave them?

“And we have just had the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow,” said Cllr King, who’s also a county councillor.

“One of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases in Harborough district are private cars.

“We are all being urged to use public transport such as buses and trains more to help save the environment.

“So how does that add up if our crucial local bus services are being reduced?

“Part of the problem is that we have no real input into how all of this works.

“Local bus services are dealt with by the Regional Traffic Commissioner.

“I’m not totally sure what the right system is to deal with our public transport services locally – but this is the wrong system,” said Cllr King.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien told the Mail today: “I know from my many previous discussions with my constituents just how important this X3 service is to many of them.

“So both Cllr Phil King and I are keen to meet with Arriva to discuss these proposals as soon as possible.

“We need to understand the journey numbers taking place to gauge the impact these proposed changes might have on constituents.

“This service is well used by residents of Market Harborough and communities along the A6 between the town and Leicester - such as Kibworth and Great Glen,” insisted Neil.

“These proposals around the X3 do not impact on other services in the area such as the Centrebus routes in Harborough.

“But we need to urgently meet with Arriva to discuss these proposals on behalf of those who may be impacted by these changes.”

Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition on Harborough council, told the Mail: “The critical X3 service has come under attack here before and we’ve had to battle to save it – so this latest move by Arriva is very worrying.

“These buses are an absolute lifeline for thousands of people both in Market Harborough and in villages such as Kibworth and Great Glen.

“Cutting off the Southern Estate and Farndon Fields in Market Harborough would have a major impact – and strike a lot of people.

“Cutting the frequency of the service from Leicester to Market Harborough would also be catastrophic.

“So many people rely on catching these buses to go to hospital appointments, to see their doctor, to go shopping and to see their families and friends,” said Cllr Knowles, who’s repeatedly fought to save threatened bus services over the last few years.

“I can’t believe, either, that Arriva are aiming to cut back from the New Year – it’s just round the corner for goodness sake.

“We are prepared to work with Cllr Phil King and our MP Neil O’Brien to try to these changes scrapped.

“This is entirely non-political and would hurt all of us.

“My message to Arriva is simple,” he said.

“Think again – and leave our bus services well alone.

“This is not as easy as drawing a line through a set of figures on a piece of paper.

“There are a lot of people who would suffer as a result of what you are proposing to do.

“That’s the real human cost that you’ve got to take into account,” said Cllr Knowles.

An Arriva spokeswoman said: “There are changes to our X3 service from 4th January which will see the combined frequency of buses between Market Harborough and Leicester revert from four to three buses per hour, the same as it was in 2018.

“The early morning journeys from the Southern Estate will now commence from the town centre.

“There is no change to the Centrebus 30, which is the main service for the Southern Estate and Farndon Fields and is funded by Leicestershire County Council.”

She added: “We welcome the opportunity to meet with Neil O’Brien MP and Cllr Phil King, and look forward to discussing these changes as well as the opportunities for Market Harborough presented by the Government’s National Bus Strategy.”