A CAMPAIGN adviser said ‘we need to take control of our buses’ amid concerns over further plans to overhaul services.

First Essex pulled several Colchester routes earlier this year after unveiling plans to replace them with a new shuttle network.

The company apparently cited low passenger numbers and excess traffic on some routes as reasons for cutting some services.

Route 66 linking West Bergholt, the city centre, Old Heath and Rowhedge has been cut in half, meaning it no longer runs to North Station.

The bus stops outside Gala Bingo at Osbourne Street which means some older passengers have difficulty getting to Head Street.

The changes were recently discussed at a meeting hosted by East Donyland Parish Council and Essex County Council Leader Kevin Bentley.

He was attended by a representative from First Essex who explained the reasons for the schedule reductions and listened to residents’ concerns.

Lee Scordis, Colchester’s adviser for Old Heath, Hythe and Rowhedge, said the company had also discussed further changes which are expected to take place in October.

He said: ‘It’s incredibly frustrating that a company that has made profits in the tens of millions is still claiming it can’t offer full service and even talking about price hikes.

“He then blames local people for not using their own expensive, regularly late and now spotty service. We need to take control of our buses, just like Manchester.

Ward Councilor Adam Fox fears passengers will not be told or asked about the upcoming upheaval.

He added: ‘It’s important that with the new changes in October, residents are consulted and really listened to – we haven’t seen that from First yet.’

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Michael Lilly, who is also a councilor for Old Heath, Hythe and Rowhedge, has now called for more affordable and regular buses.

“Cutting service to Gare du Nord just meant a lot more people jumped in their cars, adding to the congestion we are already dealing with,” he said.

Garry Nicholass, commercial director at First Essex, has now responded to the concerns.

He said: “Following the meeting in Rowhedge, we have listened to the comments and concerns raised and will take them into account when planning any future changes to the bus service between Rowhedge and Colchester.

“However, we also have to take into account reduced demand, increased congestion and increased costs while trying to meet the aspirations of our customers.

“The national driver shortage has also impacted our business in Essex and has unfortunately resulted in some journeys not being performed on certain days.

“However, we are recruiting and we currently have a comprehensive driving academy which will improve the situation over the next few weeks.”