BUSES with low floors have returned to Stone after the Newsletter highlighted problems faced by parents and passengers with mobility problems.
Furious residents contacted the Newsletter after the low floor buses disappeared from the 249 and 250 routes operated by Bennetts Buses, causing difficulties for passengers with pushchairs and wheelchairs.
But on Monday the low floor buses returned to the routes, to the delight of residents and councillors.
Dr Roberta Hoppe, who told the Newsletter her disabled mother had been unable to board the non low-floor buses, said this week: “It is brilliant news and just shows how important local newspapers are in giving a voice to communites. I am sure that it will be greatly appreciated by all those who were affected.” At Tuesday’s Stone Town Council meeting, Councillor Philip Jones said he had called on the county council to put the problem right after reading about it.
Staffordshire County Council had awarded a new contact to Bennetts, but there was no specification for the low floor vehicles.
Bennetts Buses transport manager Paul Keeling said that the firm had submitted “several bids” including some for low floor vehicles, but the preferred bid was the cheapest - without the low floor buses.
The county council’s transport chief Mike Maryon said: “Once we became aware that the bus did not meet the needs of users we asked for the low-floor buses to be introduced as swiftly as possible.
“This was agreed on Friday and I am delighted to see the low-floor buses on the roads today.” Councillor Jones said at Tuesday’s meeting: “As soon as I became aware of the issue I had a word with the cabinet member and said ‘there is something wrong with the contract here’.
“The contract specified the buses should be less than 10 years old. The council thought that would not only mean the buses would be more fuel efficient and ecofriendly but would also be low-floored.
“When that was realised the contract was re-written to state (buses should be) not more than 10 years old and low-floored.”