A YORK bus firm has defended its performance after being accused of ignoring passengers’ concerns about one of its services.

Almost 1,000 Huntington residents signed a petition organised by City of York Council’s Liberal Democrat group to vent their unhappiness about First’s No.5 route, which runs through their community as it travels between Strensall and Acomb through the city centre.

The passengers have claimed that, despite changes to the route last year and claims from First that its reliability had improved, there were still problems with buses running late and “poor facilities”.

The petition was discussed at a decision session for Coun Dave Merrett, the council’s cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability, last week, at which transport officials were asked to speak to First about the residents’ concerns.

But Coun Keith Orrell, who represents Huntington and New Earswick for the Lib Dems, said he was “surprised and disappointed” a representative from First was not at the meeting.

He claimed it showed York’s Quality Bus Partnership – the effectiveness of which was questioned in a report by experts last year – “seems to have made little actual impact”. “By not attending the meeting, First were effectively ignoring the concerns of 1,000 people,” he said.

“People in Huntington feel that if First has a problem, it is always the No.5 which suffers. This unreliability leads to problems including overcrowding, the inability of people with wheelchairs or buggies to get on the bus, and residents being late for work or appointments.

“It has been reported that First’s reliability has improved and we all hope this is true, but the feedback from residents on the ground is mixed.”

A First spokesman said the operator had started addressing the concerns raised in the petition, with last October’s network changes aimed at improving punctuality.

He said more than 90 per cent of No.5 services were on time in December and January “despite poor weather and roadworks”.

“We will not rest on our laurels and will look at performance on the No.5 route in the next few weeks to see if we can improve further,” he said.

“Engaging with the public is something we are keen to do and we will be fully participating in a public consultation session on bus services in general on February 8 at York Explore Library Learning Centre.”