In February this year, I attended a full council meeting to see the Labour motion to ensure the 144 bus route remains in operation win with a show of hands from all political parties
However, days later it was axed, and the replacement bus, the 144A, was being hailed as a success. Well, it wasn’t. The 144 bus seamlessly linked Bromsgrove to Birmingham in one 45-minute journey. It allowed hospital workers, people going for hospital appointments, people wanting to socialise and many others to reach the Second City in an uninterrupted journey.
Now the same trip takes up to two hours, and commuters are required to change buses in Longbridge. I tried the 144A before attending the Worcestershire County Council scrutiny meeting on transport. My journey to work typically takes 30 minutes door to door from Bromsgrove to Brindley Place. By bus, it took two hours and 20 minutes.
The Labour Party inbox was inundated with distressed messages from residents. I read each one, and it became clear that this is a serious issue that needs our full attention.
I submitted a freedom of information request to the county council on May 30th. I asked them to tell me if and when they had meetings with Birmingham City Council to address the 144 before it was axed. I am yet to receive a response, even though legally, they should have responded within 20 working days.
I emailed the leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward, and asked the same question.
He immediately responded by telling me that he asked for a briefing from Transport for West Midlands; he then forwarded me their response.
In their email, they wrote: “At the time of the deregistration of the service (144) TFWM did offer our support to Worcestershire CC to see a placement service and felt there were a number of options available for which we could consider help and support.
“However, WCC decided to pursue the option that National Express are now operating to provide a service from Bromsgrove to Longbridge via Catshill. This gives passengers wishing to travel to Birmingham a less optimal opportunity to connect with service 63 or the Cross City rail service.”
The Labour Party held two campaigns in town to raise awareness of this problem and its impact onour community, in order to compel more council action. As we now come to the end of the 144A bus contract, which was only placed for six months, we are yet to be given any information from district and county council.
However, Cllr Ian Ward asked me to provide him with comments/emails written by those affected, which I did. In an update on September 13th, he said the city council are now looking at the route and will come back to me in two weeks.
I am extremely hopeful that in a fortnight, cross-border Labour Party work may, just may, bring back the144 bus. Bromsgrove Labour Party intends to keep fighting for this bus route to be reinstated because,
fundamentally, we believe that when there is a will, there is a way!
Author Sam Ammar Bromsgrove CLP Chair