Astonishment at bus cutbacks plan COMMENT ON THIS STORY

Leeds City Council's deputy leader today added his voice to criticism of proposed bus service cuts by transport giant First.

Coun Andrew Carter says he is "astonished" by First's plan to axe nearly four per cent of the services it operates in West Yorkshire from the middle of next month.

Many of the threatened services run in traffic-choked Leeds, where boosting bus passenger levels has long been seen as a vital way of keeping the city on the move.

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Coun Carter (Con, Calverley and Farsley) said: "These changes are a major obstacle to any strategic attempt to get more people to use public transport.

"First are rapidly becoming part of the problem and not part of the solution."

He added that he had been particularly disappointed by the proposals, given a recent conversation he had with First Group's chief executive, Sir Moir Lockhead.

Coun Carter said: "He was talking about further investment in Leeds and the surrounding areas.

"What is happening now seems to run entirely contrary to this."

Coun Carter's comments echo the condemnation of First's plans by Coun Chris Greaves, chairman of Metro, the publicly-funded body that oversees bus and train travel in West Yorkshire. He said the company "seems fixated on increasing profit levels", rather than helping the people who rely on its services.

First, however, claims that buses are being withdrawn where there are too few passengers to justify keeping them on the road.

Services due to be axednext month include the 44 (Bramley-Pudsey-Owlcotes Centre), 51A (Moor Allerton-Leeds-Morley) and the 68 (Leeds-Seacroft-Scholes).

The firm's plans were due to be discussed today at a special meeting of Metro's Leeds passenger consultative committee.

Open to the public, the meeting was being held at Wellington House, 40-50 Wellington Street, Leeds, from 2pm.

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