n Bus chaos: Silver Street on Friday

BUS giant Arriva is on collision course with Luton Borough Council.

Commercial director of Arriva the Shires and Essex Brian Drury has heavily criticised the council and spoken of his grave concerns for the future of bus services in the town.

His interview comes exactly one year after the council caused controversy by moving bus shelters out of the town centre in Manchester Street where they had been for decades to Silver Street as well as slamming the council for roadworks and disruption.

The transport chief says these changes have led to a drop in passenger numbers despite a 3 million investment by the company in brand new buses.

"A year ago changes were made to town centre shopping arrangements at very short notice and with no meaningful consultation.

"This resulted in bus services being relocated to Silver Street - a totally inadequate waiting environment for our customers - and led on to disruption to the entire bus network. This was made worse because the Bury Park scheme overran and then roadworks were introduced in Guildford Street.

"Yet one year on there is still no visible evidence of work being undertaken to improve and redevelop the area which the bus operators were forced to quit," said Mr Drury.

He added: "All the disruptions to bus services led to a significant reduction in passenger numbers last year - despite a 3 million investment in brand new buses by Arriva made in the hope that customers would benefit from real measurable improvements to their service."

Mr Drury also talked about the fact the council is axing some bus services on Sundays and Bank Holidays to pay for a new concessionary fares scheme for the elderly. He branded this decision 'perverse'.

"It seems a bit perverse to me. We are going to have a situation where OAPs are going to be given free travel but they will have fewer buses on which to travel", said Mr Drury.

"We are going to carry on doing our best to work with the council to try and improve public transport but we are disappointed.

"We have invested a significant amount of money in public transport in Luton and that doesn't seem to be matched by the borough council."

In response to the barrage of criticism the councillor in charge of transport Andy Strange says the Town Hall is doing all it can to improve Silver Street.

He said: "The timing of the roadworks in Bury Park and Guildford Street were largely beyond our control. However, these works have been completed for some time now and it is widely acknowledged, including by the bus operators, that travel has considerably improved through the new section of Bury Park."

He added the changes in the Manchester Street area were needed to improve what will become the new St George's Square as part of a 3 billion regeneration.

About the axing of Sunday services he said: "The decision to withdraw some Sunday bus services was not taken lightly but this option gives residents the best deal."

Arriva's argument

• Drop in passenger numbers despite 3 million investment in buses

• Council is not meeting us halfway when it comes to public transport

• Silver St is 'an inadequate waiting environment'

• Bus services axed to pay for OAP concessionary fares is 'perverse' decision