Birmingham & Black Country

Ring and Ride reduced service 'saved' in West Midlands

Ring and ride service
Image caption Ring and Ride provides services to people with mobility problems

The Ring and Ride service used by about 60,000 people in the West Midlands has been saved from the axe.

It was feared the door-to-door minibus service might be scrapped due to government cuts.

However Centro, which funds Ring and Ride, said it would make £8.5m available next year.

The charity said it was "pleased" with the money but would not be able to continue Sunday services under the new funding arrangement.

Operating hours will be reduced, with buses running from 08:00 to 20:00 Monday to Saturday. Fares will also rise from 60p to £1.

'Uncertain future'

Centro, which funds Ring and Ride, said it had cut staffing costs to protect front-line services.

Its members voted to keep half-price bus fares for children and free tram and train travel for eligible people, despite previously warning they could also be cut.

Image copyright @NSinclaireMEP
Image caption MEP Nikki Sinclaire led a protest against the cuts during the meeting

The decisions came after 8,000 people responded to a public consultation on the proposals.

Centro chairman John McNicholas said the public consultation "clearly showed... services provided by Centro are highly valued".

Peter Maggs, chief executive of West Midlands Special Needs Transport (WMSNT), said it was "pleased" with an £8.5m grant for 2014/15.

But he said the group, which runs West Midlands Ring and Ride, faced uncertainty in the future.

"We are not going to be able to provide the same level of service we have up until now," he said.

'Severe impact'

Campaign group West Midlands Pensioners' Convention submitted a petition with more than 70,000 signatures to Centro opposing proposals to drop Ring and Ride.

Chairman Tom Gray said the group "deplored any cuts" but felt Centro had listened to its concerns.

However, he warned the group would campaign against any further cuts or fare increases in future budgets.

"Any small increase in contributions is going to have a severe impact on people when you are expected to live on the basic state pension," he said.

One pensioner who uses Ring and Ride said it provided a "very important" service and a key means to get "out of the house". Another Tom Richards, 86, said it was a lifeline.

MEP Nikki Sinclaire, who led a protest outside Centro House before Friday's meeting, said she was "very disappointed" with reductions to the service.

Centro is responsible for bus, rail and Midland Metro tram transport in the West Midlands.

It is funded by Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Borough Council, Sandwell Borough Council, Solihull Borough Council, Walsall Borough Council and Wolverhampton City Council.

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