Saffron Walden family left stranded by Essex bus cuts

Michelle and Cameron

Michelle and Cameron - Credit: Archant

A mother and son are facing extra long journeys after cuts to bus timetables have left no commuter service from Dunmow to Saffron Walden in the afternoon.

Michelle Barrett, a dental nurse who lives in Saffron Walden and works in Dunmow, and her son Cameron, 12, who goes to school at Helena Romanes, found themselves stranded by the changes.

On the first day of the changes (April 11), Michelle and Cameron, whose family moved to Saffron Walden after Cameron started secondary school, waited at the bus stop in Dunmow for a Dial a Ride bus home – the DART leaflet indicates that there is one – but no bus came.

Michelle, a dental nurse, told the Reporter: “I phoned the council on Monday morning to check that the DART 2 was covering the exact same route as the former 313. My son and I went to the bus stop at 6.30pm and we were waiting there.

“I thought this doesn’t seem to be right and when the bus didn’t turn up, I phoned the company (Arrow Taxis Essex) and they said ‘we’re sorry we don’t have a contract for that service’.

“The next day, I phoned Essex County Council and they said the DART service did have the contract – we went back but DART still says they don’t. The leaflet is misleading.”

Michelle and Cameron’s original bus, the 313, has seen some services cut but the leaflet for the DART 2 service says: “Passengers can travel to and from anywhere within the parishes shown on the map, between these parishes and also direct to Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow and Braintree town centres.”

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Fortunately, Michelle’s husband, Matthew who works in Chelmsford can give his wife and son a lift into Dunmow for school and work in the mornings, even though it means they reach the town early at 7.30am.

However, they would have to wait until 7.30pm for a lift back with him and Cameron finishes school at Helena Romanes at 3.10pm.

The only solution has been for Cameron to take the 133 bus to Stansted and then get the bus number 6 to Saffron Walden. It means a journey of two hours and 40 minutes to get home – reaching Saffron Walden at 5.50pm.

Michelle said: “For some reason the council seem to think this is acceptable.

“It’s ludicrous, absolutely crazy. I am trying to see if Cameron can travel on school transport. I have called the DART people to see if they could collect my son and take him to Thaxted then he could get the number 6 bus from there back to Saffron Walden bearing in mind he is only 12. At first they said no but then they said they would need to speak to the council and get back to me and I am still waiting to hear.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council said DART services require two hours’ notice.

She added: “The recent changes to the bus timetables seek to maximise the coverage of the bus network, while offering good value to taxpayers at a time of financial constraint. This has meant changes to journeys for some individuals.

“We are aware of the issue raised by Mrs Barrett and contacted her to discuss the options available to her.”

At the time of going to press Mrs Barrett was still waiting to hear from both DART and Essex County Council.

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