Public transport campaigners are set on a collision course with bus firms after four bus stations in Wiltshire, Dorset and north Devon were earmarked for closure.
The biggest row centres on the future of Salisbury bus station, which could be sold off by Wilts & Dorset bus company, with bus passengers in the city left to make do with pavement bus stops instead of a main bus station hub.
David Redgewell, from the South West Transport Network group of public transport campaigners, said similar closure decisions are affecting bus stations in Amesbury, Swanage and Ilfracombe.
But bosses at the firm that runs bus services across south Wiltshire and Dorset said bus stations were a thing of the past, and were no longer ‘essential’ to their services. Operations director Ed Wills said closing Salisbury’s bus station would save the firm a fortune and money could be put back into improving services instead.
Mr Redgewell said: “This is a worrying trend for bus stations to be closed. The alternative is that people just end up on the pavement waiting for a bus.
“There’s lots of concerns about this from councillors too. If anything else, what happens to National Express passengers when they arrive at Salisbury? It’s a major city with a lot of tourists who arrive by coach – they’ll be greeted with just a pavement to get out to, no kind of welcome at all.
“Salisbury will be probably the largest place in the country without a proper bus station. Other places are not seeing the need to get rid of bus stations. In Gloucester, they are working on a brand new bus station, and the plans for the regeneration of Swindon include a great new bus station, so it’s not like this is common. It’s really worrying for public transport in Wiltshire and Dorset.”
But Mr Wills said the bus station building was no longer needed, and was expensive to run and maintain. The 100 buses that his firm runs in and out of Salisbury will simply park up in the street and use the depot in Castle Street, while Amesbury’s bus station is also not needed.
“Neither bus station is essential to our services, but as they age they are costing more to maintain and operate from each year,” he said.
“We believe this cost can be better used to provide bus services and the land could be put to much better use for the community and local economy,” he added.