Express & Star

Under-threat Black Country bus service saved 10 days before it was due to be axed

A "vital" Black Country bus service due to stop running this month has been saved.

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The 45 bus has been saved by Transport for West Midlands

Diamond Bus had notified Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) of its intention to withdraw the 45 despite it serving key destinations between West Bromwich and Walsall, including Sandwell General Hospital.

Bosses at Diamond told TfWM it would halt the service on April 15 because a fall in passengers meant the route was no longer commercially viable.

Now, after a competitive tendering process, the 45 will continue to be run by Diamond but under contract to TfWM for an initial six-months. During this period the service will remain under review while a longer-term arrangement is sought.

It comes after a campaign to save the bus backed by MP Nicola Richards and a petition organised by Sarah Coombes which has received nearly 1,400 signatures.

Comments on the petition included: "This bus is a lifeline for me as a wheelchair user. So many of my neighbours rely on this bus too. You would be isolating many vulnerable people if it goes."

TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), funds and part-funds services deemed socially necessary where commercial bus companies say they are unable to provide the service for profit.

The 45 is a key route in the Black Country linking the Yew Tree area, and other communities, with West Bromwich and Walsall. Without this service many people in the area would be left without convenient access to essential local services and facilities.

Jon Hayes, TfWM’s head of bus, said: "We know from passengers themselves how important the number 45 bus is along this key route in the Black Country, so we’re pleased to be able to ensure it continues despite the limited options we had available to do that.

“Passengers have made us aware of the poor reliability of Diamond buses on service 45, earlier in the year. We have worked with Diamond to bring about improvements along with other services in the area.

“Operating the service under contract means we will have a process in place for monitoring performance and be able to take appropriate action where required. It will also give us time to assess all the options for the longer-term future of this service.

“In the meantime, we encourage passengers to keep using the service to help support its future viability.”

Sarah Coombes, organiser of the save the 45 petition, said: “Thanks to people coming together and mounting a fierce campaign, we have had this great news that the 45 will be saved for the next six months. The bus is vital for so many in the Yew Tree, Tamebridge and Charlemont and it would be unthinkable for it to be lost. We will continue our campaign until the bus is saved for good.”

TfWM has also saved the Sunday service on the number 002 from Weoley Castle to Merry Hill, which was due to be dropped from Diamond’s timetable. TfWM has said it will remain half-hourly, rather than the hourly service previously stated.

An hourly service will continue to be run by Diamond under contract to TfWM until the end of October. The Monday to Saturday service is not affected.