More than 500 people have signed a petition to save a bus stop which has been an important part of life in a coastal Cornish town for more than a century.
Residents are concerned that a new bus stop is less safe as it doesn’t have lighting or a shelter, and is more difficult to access for passengers who are disabled or have mobility issues.
The move has been made by bus company Go Cornwall following concerns about buses reversing outside the Safe Harbour Inn at Fowey and the possible risk of causing serious injury.
Those against the move to get rid of the Safe Harbour bus stop have started a petition as well as a Facebook page, which states: “A decision was made without public consultation to move the Go Cornwall bus stop from the Safe Harbour to Hanson Drive.
“We are in danger now of losing the Safe Harbour bus stop in favour of a location that is less accessible to many, in addition to being in a less safe location with no shelter, seating or live travel updates.”
The petition was set up in September and currently has more than 500 signatures.
Started by Fowey resident Gretchen Viehmann, it states: “Since April 2023, the Go Cornwall-operated buses (number 25 red buses and 24 services operating in the evening) ceased serving the Safe Harbour bus stop, moving their stop up the hill to Hanson Drive to accommodate the unwillingness of some drivers to reverse into the Safe Harbour stop.
“This decision was made as an ‘executive decision’ by the CEO of Go Cornwall with no consultation and no input from the community.
“An application has now been given to First Kernow (the number 24 green buses) to cease using the bus stop from outside the Safe Harbour.
"The proposal is that from January 2024, the Safe Harbour bus stop will no longer exist and all buses will use the bus stop currently being used by the 25 buses on Hanson Drive, which has neither lighting, shelter nor live transport updates and poses an additional challenge for less able passengers who must navigate the additional hill up to Hanson Drive.
“Please sign, if you think as we do, that the bus stop should remain where it has been for over a century for the convenience and safety of local people and visitors alike.”
The area in front of the Safe Harbour Inn, at the junction of Lostwithiel Street, Cobbs Well and Brown’s Hill, has been used as a transport hub for well over 100 years, with horse-drawn coaches picking up passengers before motorised bus started to be used.
Gretchen added: “There is a natural logic to the use of this area, a widening of the road momentarily that allows people to turn around, to pick up and drop off passengers.
"As a terminus for the bus services into Fowey, where passengers are able to easily and safely walk down to the town centre. So why has it suddenly become an issue?”
Graham Allen, landlord of the Safe Harbour Inn, said getting rid of the bus stop would have a massive impact on his business and others in the town, with some people already saying they’ll stop visiting Fowey as the loss of the stop will make life more difficult.
Mr Allen said: “I’ve been here for almost 15 years and during that time there have been two buses every half an hour.
“People who are waiting come in and use the pub, if the bus is late passengers pop in and the bus drivers use the pub as a comfort stop.
"It will have a huge impact on trade if it goes, and could also affect other pubs and businesses in the town.”
Graham added: “It will also have an impact on the elderly – we watch people in their 70s and 80s struggling down the hill and now face a massive walk back up again.
"Where the new bus stop is proposed on the corner is on a busy road and is a lot less safe.”
The landlord said there were also concerns about the safety of young women who work in the centre of Fowey and catch the bus back up at the end of the night.
He explained: “The bus stop here is well lit and there are a lot of houses around if, God forbid, anything happened – one scream and people would be here.
"But at up on the corner it’s dark, there are trees and hiding places. I wouldn’t want my young daughters getting off there at 12 o’clock at night.”
He said the possible loss of the bus stop was the talk of the pub: “Football and rugby have taken a back seat. There is no other topic of conversation.”
It is understood that some bus drivers have complained about using the bus stop after traffic-slowing pavements/bollards were put in around 16 years ago that prevent the buses getting a wide enough swing.
Concerned passengers believe their removal would go a long way to helping the situation.
The Cornwall councillor for Fowey, Andy Virr, explained that the decision to remove the Safe Harbour stop for Go Cornwall buses was taken by their managing director after a risk assessment.
Cllr Virr said: “They are concerned about the risk of serious injury or death when the bus is reversing into position outside the pub. The decision has been supported by Cornwall Council’s transport department.”
“I have questioned the decision and have been assured that proper consideration was carried out.
"I have petitioned for a new bus shelter to be sited at the bottom of New Road Hill to help users to sit whilst they wait and some protection from the rain. I appreciate that this change is unpopular and some bus users will struggle to use the new stop.”
Cllr Virr has asked for a site meeting with the Cornwall Council transport team and Go Cornwall to ensure all options have been considered, which is due to take place in November.
He added: “It’s worth noting that the bus now loops around Tower Park towards Readymoney, so covers a larger geographical spread across Fowey. Also, no services have been stopped.
“The focus of the meeting with Go Cornwall will be to ensure their risk assessment is fair and reasonable - whether further bus driver training could mitigate that risk and ensuring they have heard the voice from those with significant mobility issues who now feel they can’t use the new bus stop.”
Residents have said there is no evidence of anyone being injured or killed at the bus stop in the entire time it’s been there.
Responding to concerns from a Fowey resident, the town’s MP Steve Double said: “Thank you for your email regarding the re-siting of Fowey Bus Stop at Safe Harbour and I’m sorry to hear about the concern this has caused you.
“I have already received a similar email from another resident concerned about the future of this bus stop.
"As a result have sent a letter to Go Cornwall to try to establish the reasoning behind their decision and ensure that they are aware of the concerns that residents have raised with me.
“I hope that on hearing of residents’ concerns on this issue that Go Cornwall will be willing to review their decision
"In the meantime, I would encourage all concerned customers to contact the company and express their concerns.”
Go Cornwall has been approached for comment.
Credit: Lee Trewhela/ Local Democracy Reporting Service