Hengistbury Head Noddy train decision ‘cannot be challenged’ despite nearly 20,000 signature petition (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Hengistbury Head Noddy train decision ‘cannot be challenged’ despite nearly 20,000 signature petition
The decision to scrap the current Hengistbury Head land train service cannot be challenged, despite the public outcry.
More than 17,000 people have signed the online petition to save the service, run by 88-year-old Joyce Faris, and hundreds of people have posted messages of support on the land train’s Facebook page.
Many have also emailed leisure and tourism cabinet member Cllr Lawrence Williams to register their objection to the decision.
But a spokesman for Bournemouth council confirmed there was no opportunity for anyone to question the decision, which has not been the subject of any public consultation or discussion.
It is not even a key cabinet member decision, which means there is no mechanism for any councillor to call it in and get it scrutinised.
Even members of the council’s economy and tourism scrutiny panel were unaware of the decision until they read about it in the Echo.
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Cllr Bob Chapman, who chairs the panel, confirmed it was not something that had been brought to the attention of panel members.
The council’s stated aim of extending the land train service so that it eventually runs from Alum Chine to Hengistbury Head is also new.
There is no mention of this in the council’s seafront strategy, which was published last year and detailed how the council intended to improve the seafront in the long-term.
A council spokesman said there were around 400 licences involving the parks or seafront and so they were constantly coming up for renewal.
She said the licence for the land train came up for renewal and over the past few years they had asked Mrs Faris to submit a business plan to update the service.
They said she had not done this and so they informed her they wanted to either re-tender it or bring it in-house.
The spokesman confirmed the decision was not subject to consultation or call-in because ‘no significant change’ to the service was planned.
However, she could not confirm it would continue to run 364 days a year, saying this will be subject to a review.
Bournemouth council claim running its own land trains will mean 50 per cent more people will be able to use the service and disabled access will be improved.
It also expects it to generate £45,000 a year.
It said it would be providing new traditionally-styled upgraded trains, which would have increased capacity and shorter waiting times.
Trains will be operated by fully-trained staff with Public Service Vehicle licences and will be accessible to disabled people.
The council said its trains would also use less fuel and result in lower emissions.
They will be wider than the current trains but the council said it was confident this would not impact negatively on the environment.
It has confirmed it will freeze fares for the 2015 season and will introduce new ticketing options and incentives.
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