Vital 'lifeline' bus service which connects Harborough to Leicester and Northampton is being cut back

The frequency of the X7 is to be reduced from this weekend by Stagecoach

By Red Williams
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 5:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 5:22 pm
A vital “lifeline” bus service which connects Market Harborough to Leicester and Northampton is being cut back.
A vital “lifeline” bus service which connects Market Harborough to Leicester and Northampton is being cut back.

A vital “lifeline” bus service which connects Market Harborough to Leicester and Northampton is being cut back.

The frequency of the X7 is to be reduced from this weekend by Stagecoach.

The bus currently runs every 30 minutes from Monday to Saturday but will be cut to every hour from this Sunday (January 30).

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, Harborough District Council leader Phil King and fellow district councillor Phil Knowles are now all demanding crisis discussions with Stagecoach bosses.

They are keen to sit down and talk with the bus operator’s management after saying the news “came out of the blue”.

The new bombshell blow to bus passengers in Harborough comes after Stagecoach’s business rival Arriva withdrew its X3 service from Market Harborough’s Southern Estate and Farndon Fields estate.

Arriva has also slashed the frequency of the X3 between Market Harborough, Kibworth, Great Glen and Leicester from half hourly to every hour.

Reacting to the X7 revelation, MP Neil O’Brien told the Harborough Mail tonight: “This is something Cllr Phil King and I are both seeking an urgent meeting with the operators on to discuss concerns further.

“We appreciate passenger journeys have changed during the course of the Covid pandemic.

“But we need to ensure that as things hopefully return back to normal we have sufficient services for people to get around in,” said Neil.

“I know how popular this particular route is amongst my constituents.

“So I will be conveying these concerns to Stagecoach in our forthcoming meeting to see what can be done to ensure adequate provisions remain in place.”

Talking to the Mail this evening, Cllr King said: “I am mightily concerned about this.

“We’ve been kept in the dark about X7 services being reduced.

“I’ve now written to Stagecoach requesting a meeting urgently.

“We need to understand what the justification for this move is,” insisted Cllr King.

“Why are Stagecoach acting as they are?

“Are they not getting enough passengers on the X7 or have they not got enough staff to run it?

“There has been a 50 per cent cut on bus services along the A6 route in Harborough over the last few weeks alone after the X3 was also reduced.

“You can’t get a train from Leicester to Northampton – so you’ve got to rely on jumping on a bus or driving there by car.

“And the number of buses that will take you there are fast diminishing,” said the Harborough council chief.

“How can that be good for the environment as we all do our best to cut our CO2 footprint and eradicate pollution?

“The X7 will take you all the way to Milton Keynes.

“It’s a crucial bus service for so many people so this is extremely worrying.”

Backing up Cllr King, Cllr Phil Knowles, who heads up the Liberal Democrat opposition on Harborough council, told the Mail: “This is a serious setback.

“The X7 is an absolute lifeline for a lot of people throughout Harborough.

“They rely on this bus to get them to the hospital, the medical centre, the dentist’s, the shops and to see their friends.

“Buses like the X7 are the transport lifeblood for these people in our rustic community,” said Cllr Knowles.

“Losing it will turn their lives upside down – and threaten how they live day in day out.

“It’s also highly regrettable that we were not told about this beforehand – that’s just not good enough.

“We live in a rural area in Harborough and the bus is critical here for people to get about,” said the veteran local councillor.

“And how can we become greener and cleaner and wean people off their cars if there are far fewer buses for them to get on?

“So it’s of the utmost importance that our MP and councillors like myself sit down to talk with Stagecoach as soon as possible.”

A Stagecoach spokesman said: “As is the case with other transport operators and many other organisations, we are seeing a continuing impact on our staffing levels as a result of the pandemic.

“We therefore looked at the Northamptonshire bus network to find routes where a temporary service reduction could be made and impact the smallest number of passengers,” he said.

“Out of 45 services we are making frequency changes to 4 of them. “Route X7 (Leicester-Northampton) & Route 2 (Corby-Kettering) will run hourly, route 49 will run between Wellingborough and Rushden with route 50 running from Kettering to Bedford serving Higham Ferrers (replacing the 49).

“We recognise that the disruption to services we have seen over the past few weeks is unsettling and inconvenient for customers.

“And therefore reducing services in some places should mean that we are able to provide services more reliably.”