MP launches attack on bus operator

THE management of the region's main bus operator – whose managing director left suddenly last week – has been described by an MP as a "complete shambles".

By David Lennard

THE management of the region's main bus operator – whose managing director left suddenly last week – has been described by an MP as a "complete shambles".

John Pope, regional managing director of bus operator First, left the company without explanation after just over a year in the job. First is refusing to say whether he resigned or was asked to leave.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard had arranged to meet Mr Pope on Friday after receiving a deluge of complaints about new bus routes in north Suffolk.

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But the meeting was cancelled at short notice after Mr Pope's sudden departure. Mr Blizzard said: "I urged First to send someone else which they declined to do despite urgent calls from my office.

"The management of First seems to be a complete shambles. They haven't listened to customers and the new timetable is a mess that has upset lots of regular bus users."

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Mr Blizzard said he had received numerous complaints from constituents in recent months about changes to bus services.

"These include the Lowestoft to Norwich route, which has left many travellers in north Lowestoft and Oulton Broad without a convenient stop near to their homes," he said.

Other complaints made to the MP include delays on various routes across north Suffolk and a peak time bus from Kessingland that arrives at Lowestoft railway station one minute after the departure of a connecting train.

"One of the main issues is the failure to provide a service between Kessingland and the James Paget Hospital.

"This is desperately needed by the village's large elderly population and many families without cars, as was shown by the Kessingland village appaisal carried out by the parish council."

Representatives from Kessingland Parish Council were due to join the meeting at Mr Blizzard's Lowestoft office.

Tom Oxley, spokesperson for First, said: "We have been in contact with Mr Blizzard's office during the week and we have asked them for another date.

"The meeting is important to us and we are sorry it had to be postponed. We will rearrange it when we can so we can work together to make services better for passengers."

Meanwhile the bus operator, which provides services across Suffolk and Norfolk, is refusing to elaborate on the departure of Mr Pope, who has 30 years' experience in the bus industry.

When he took over last September, Mr Pope said he was determined to improve reliability and give passengers a bus network they could be proud of.

He had previously been managing director of the main Nottingham bus company, City Transport.

Dave Kaye, operations director for First's UK bus division, said: "We are now looking for a high quality experienced person to take the company on to the next level.

"David Marshall, currently the finance director for the eastern counties, will be the acting managing director in the interim until a permanent replacement is in position."

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