Leasowe’s 106 bus service in The Wirral was a community in its own right.
Leasowe’s residents that used the 106 service viewed the bus a place where they could connect with their neighbours and look out for one another – if someone was missing from the bus one day, the other riders would know to check up on them. The bus also acted as a vital link for people to access shops and the local hospital, with many residents needing regular visits due to long-term health conditions.
But this community was threatened last year when cuts to transport services across Merseyside were announced, including the rerouting of the 106, cutting off the Leasowe estate. Residents, many of them elderly, vulnerable and with disabilities, would now need to get three buses, or fork out for taxi fares, just to access their hospital.
Susan Allan, a volunteer community organiser who lives on the estate, uncovered this issue whilst out door knocking in her community. She listened to her neighbours’ concerns and, along with fellow community organiser Steph Hughes, brought them together.
Residents came together at a meeting to discuss their concerns, and began engaging in the consultation process set out by Merseytravel about the proposed service cuts, but they didn’t receive any feedback or acknowledgement following their participation. One of the residents even created a Twitter account to try and get a response, but after many tweets and emails, they still had not received any communication back.
So they called a second public meeting, where a smaller number of dedicated residents attended and began to build a strategy. The team reached out into the wider community, starting a petition which gained thousands of signatures. They gathered case studies to illustrate how individuals in the community would be affected and investigated the proposals set out by Merseytravel.
During the consultation and the first public meeting it was said that following the service cuts, no-one would end up further away than 400m from a bus stop. Residents measured this by walking the proposed distances with a measuring wheel and printing maps from Google, and found that the new bus stop was more than double the distance than had been stated.
The residents then approached their community organisers again, this time for support with contacting their local MP, Angela Eagle. Angela Eagle came to meet with the group, taking copies of their pictures, petition and case studies. She then arranged for herself and local councillor Liam Robinson, who is also the chair of Merseytravel, to come and have a public meeting with the community.
The meeting was attended by more than 100 people, not just from the estate, but from the surrounding neighbourhoods too. At the meeting, Angela Eagle stated that there needs to be some form of transport available for the Leasowe community whilst a decision is being made by Merseytravel, as she could see from the residents just how much of a lifeline the 106 is.
Since this meeting the 106 community have been working to hold their MP to her word, to ensure that their lifeline is not severed. In addition to the public commitment made by Angela Eagle, there was an immediate change from the meeting, which local resident Debbie Jones pointed out:
“All of the residents were saying how nice it was to see each other again – it was the [106 bus] community coming back together.”
Debbie had got involved in the Save Our 106 campaign through a friend, and even though this was her first time taking organised action in her community, emerged as a leader alongside a few other passionate residents running the campaign. Debbie is now looking into the possibility of crowdfunding a community run bus service, which given the support for the campaign so far, looks like it would have great momentum behind it.
Leasowe’s residents are still waiting for a decision from Merseytravel, but are refusing to reduce the pressure of their campaign. Another petition with the campaign name “Reinstate our 106” has now received over 400 signatures, and the community are connecting with other neighbouring areas where direct community action saved their local bus services, some of whom had to fight for three years to get their bus back. The residents of Leasowe intend next to take their fight to Frank Rogers, chief executive of Merseytravel. A community once brought together by their local bus service are now organising in their fight to save it.