TRANSPORT secretary Mark Harper’s neighbours have had a “nightmare” run-up to Christmas with road closures causing delays and diversions leaving elderly Gloucestershire bus users stranded.

The Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean is responsible for transport across the nation but has also had to deal with problems closer to home in recent weeks.

The ongoing closure in Morse Road has been tormenting motorists who travel through Ruardean.

There is a diversion in place which means the Stagecoach 22 service, a vital link to Gloucester, now completely misses the village.

Mr Harper, who lives in the area, has got his office on the case and they have been in touch with Gloucestershire highways who have escalated their concerns with Gigaclear.

That specific closure, which is to allow the utility firm to carry out works between Bents Lane and Drybrook, has been in place since December 4 and is expected to continue until December 22.

Mr Harper said highways have instructed the firm to “reduce disruption for residents immediately”.

“During this week, road works have been undertaken on Morse Road in Ruardean that have caused significant disruption to residents,” Mr Harper said.

“Traffic has been diverted causing delays to journey times and the impact on the bus service has meant that many people have found it difficult to get to school and work.”

“Given that the work on the road is due to continue until December 22, I am keen to see that any disruption is kept to a minimum. I will be contacting Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) again to ensure this is followed through.

“In addition to this, I have contacted Stagecoach and GCC to see what measures need to be put in place to ensure that buses to work and school are running.”

Councillor Terry Hale (C, Drybrook and Ruardean), who represents the area at Gloucestershire County Council, said many elderly bus users have been abandoned due to the bus route diversion.

He had suggested that the 22 bus could make it as far as The Square in Ruardean and turn around and come back the way it came to continue its route. However, this was rejected.

“Elderly people who rely on that bus feel stranded by the diversion. We’ve tried our best to get the road reopened,” he said.

“We’ve done our utmost to get it right. The road originally came from Cats Hill and internally in Drybrook. Highways separated that work so that it wasn’t a complete block off.

“We are keeping some of it running but Gigaclear booked the date and then highways couldn’t do anything about it. They have to work around the utility firms.”

Fellow Tory County Councillor Alan Preest (C, Lydney), who uses the buses regularly, said he was actually on the 22 today (December 13) and experienced the diversion for himself.

“We got down into Lydbrook and then we were diverted up. We didn’t get further than Joy’s Green. Ruardean is totally isolated.”

Gigaclear delivery director Charlie Freed apologised for the inconvenience caused by the road closure in Morse Road.

“We understand the frustration road closures can cause particularly in situations where bus services are impacted and when diversions are significant.

“However, we only close roads where it is required in order for us to carry out our work safely.

“In the case of Morse Road, the presence of a high-pressure gas main means we are unable to install the necessary infrastructure, whilst keeping the road open. This is because the road is too narrow.

“Although our road closure permit is valid until December 22, we hope to complete the work earlier. If this is the case, we will inform the county council who in turn will inform the bus company.

“If possible, we will also seek to move to traffic lights as soon as it is safe to do so.

“I hope that the future benefit of being able to access ultrafast broadband will outweigh the short-term disruption, although I recognise it is frustrating whilst the work is underway.”

Rachel Geliamassi, managing director at Stagecoach West, said that while the 22 is unable to serve Ruardean the 35 and 754 which run through the village are unaffected.

“Customers are able to connect with the 22 at Joy’s Green or Cinderford using one of these services,” she said.

“I completely understand the frustrations caused by the temporary road closure.

“We explored all potential alternatives to maintain a connection to Ruardean on service 22 however there is nowhere suitable for the bus to turn safely.

“Diverting along other routes would not be possible due to the popularity of the service requiring a double deck and the additional time which the diversion would add to the journey length would also impact all passengers further along the route.

“Whilst we realise the current diversion is not ideal for all, customers can rest assured we have looked at every possible option to serve them during this time but must consider the safety and convenience of all passengers in the area.”

Gloucestershire County Council declined to comment.