Arriva meets with campaign team to discuss future of 712 service

THE ‘SAVE the 712’ campaign has received a boost this week after meeting with Arriva, the bus company behind the Greenline service, to discuss the future of the bus route.

The campaigners met with the managing director of Arriva, Paul Adcock, and the regional marketing manager, Linsey Frostick, in Luton on Tuesday and although they must now wait a week to hear what Arriva plan for the service, they said the meeting was informative and encouraging.

Matthew Jackson-Hale, who has spearheaded the ‘Save the 712’ campaign, said they had approached the meeting realistically and asked Arriva to be brutally honest about their reasons for cancelling the service.

He said that Arriva had revealed that the 712 was making an estimated annual loss that exceeded �150,000. He said: “They are having to get much leaner to balance the books and this means making some tough decisions – not only regarding our 712.

“Looking at the average fare currently received for each passenger, in order to bridge the gap a further 100 passengers per day need to be found.”

Although many of the buses are now running full to capacity, Arriva revealed that many of the current passengers are using concessionary bus passes. They currently receive 60 per cent of the overall fare back from the government when a pass is used, but with cuts coming next year, it is anticipated that this percentage will drop to 40. Such a drop in income would be a further blow to the financially-beleaguered service.

But Matthew and fellow campaigners, Brenda Bolton, Kevin Gardam and Cllr Jack Pia, feel that despite how stark the figures seem, it only outlines what they have to do in order to make the service a success.

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Matthew said: “We told them: let us help you make this work. We asked them to give us a three-month stay of execution and suggested that they increase the fares in line with the 758. We are very willing to promote the service and we’ve produced many leaflets, posters and continue to send letters and emails highlighting the advantages of the service.

“We went in to the meeting yesterday facing the gallows but came out with a glimmer of hope. If Arriva grant this extension, which we appreciate will be another gamble for them but one that comes with many plusses and plenty of good PR, we know we will have an uphill struggle to make the necessary difference. However, the wave of publicity and public feeling is carrying us along and I firmly believe we can do it. “

Cllr Jack Pia, who regularly uses the service, said: “It was a positive meeting and both parties came away with an understanding of where the other sits and there was a definite sense that Arriva was listening to us.”

Arriva will now take a week to review the suggestions made by the campaigners and inform them of their final decision next week. They said the meeting had been positive and they also told the campaigners that they had been pleasantly surprised by how much the service was appreciated by its passengers.

With news this week that First Capital Connect’s train fares will rise by an average of 5.5 per cent from January 1, the ‘Save the 712’ campaign is even more encouraged that the Greenline service offers commuters a more affordable and reliable service into London.