Councillors met with Arriva, Merseytravel and Sefton Council to discuss the future of the 47 bus through Ince Blundell.

Arriva, which runs the 47 from Crossens to Queen Square in Liverpool, recently announced that they were changing the route of the 47 so that it did not turn into Ince Blundell village from the A565.

The bus company said the move was necessary to improve reliability. But after a huge response from Ince Blundell residents against the proposals, Arriva agreed a stay of execution until January.

A range of measures have been proposed including using ‘smart’ technology to turn traffic lights green at key junctions as the bus approached, installing new bus stops on the A565 near the new Shell garage, pausing the lights at the junction to give the bus a chance to rejoin the A565 more quickly at peak times when travelling southbound, changing the bus from every 20 minutes to 30, and sending just one bus an hour through the Ince Blundell section of the route rather than the current three.

Ravenmeols councillor Nina Killen, whose ward includes Ince Blundell, thanked Arriva for pausing the plans and for attending a meeting to discuss ways to improve reliability. But she criticised the way bus services were currently provided, mostly by private companies, and said she would like to see the City Region explore franchising of bus services.

Cllr Killen said: “Ince Blundell residents were understandably hugely concerned at the thought they would lose this 20 minute service which helps children get to school and older people get to work and the shops. We heard stories of people who would be virtually housebound without a bus service.

“Merseytravel, Arriva, Sefton Council and councillors met to discuss the issues. Arriva said the 47 was running to as low as 85% reliability, which they say the Transport Commissioner would not accept. In order to amend the timetable to reflect the actual journey time, Arriva says they needed to introduce another vehicle onto the route, at a cost of about £100,000. As I understand it, they asked Merseytravel to fund part of that, but Merseytravel could not due to millions of pounds of budget cuts from central government.

“Arriva say they still have the issue with reliability however no final decisions had been made yet.”

A Sefton Council representative discussed ways for the buses and traffic lights to ‘talk’ to each other, so that lights turn green when a bus approaches, but the infrastructure was said to be hard to maintain and its effectiveness was inconsistent. Also if more than one bus was approaching a junction they could not all be given priority. Wifi connectivity may be introduced in the future to improve this technology.

Cllr Killen said: “Other measures that were discussed were changing the service from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes, which Arriva were understandable reluctant to do. They may look at keeping a third of the buses – one an hour- travelling through Ince Blundell. This would be far from a perfect solution but would be better than losing the service altogether. Sefton Council said they would look at whether new bus stops and pedestrian facilities at the ‘Red Squirrel’ junction would be possible to give residents a bus stop nearer than the current nearest alternative which is more than 1km away.

“Overall I am hopeful for a solution that will offer most residents of Ince Blundell an adequate bus service.”

Councillor Killen has called for a complete overhaul in the way buses are run. She said: “The Bus Services Act gave devolved areas such as the Liverpool City Region the opportunity to look at taking back control of bus services through franchising. I would like to see the City Region explore this opportunity further so that residents such as those in Ince Blundell and other more isolated areas don’t have to live in fear of losing their bus service like this.