A general election is likely this year, so in our monthly feature the Watford Observer will be asking the candidates for the three main parties standing to be the town’s MP a question of topical concern and publishing their answers.

Our new question is regarding bus services.

New figures have revealed bus service frequency in Watford has dropped more than 40 per cent in the last 13 years. It comes as Arriva announced plans to axe the 328 service from June 2. What can you do to help future-proof services that residents rely on?

Watford Observer: Dean Russell MPDean Russell MP

Dean Russell MP, Conservative

"I didn’t learn to drive until my late 20’s so I relied on buses. I know how important it is to have regular and reliable bus services.

"That’s why I was as frustrated as residents to learn about the plans to cancel the 328 service. Arriva says it is no longer financially sustainable but I have written to Arriva asking them to reconsider and to Hertfordshire Council asking if they can subsidise the route or help find a solution.

"When bus timetables are considered for change, operators are only required to inform councils and traffic commissioners of intended changes and cancellations to routes which is unfair. Whilst talking to residents, they raised concerns about this. This is why I personally introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament which would help to safeguard bus services by forcing operators to consult passengers before making any changes to or cancelling services and have raised buses many times with Ministers.

"I meet and correspond regularly with Arriva and local residents to address concerns and have been robust in providing feedback. When cancellations happen the whole situation feels deeply frustrating.

"There is good news, as Hertfordshire Council and the UK Government are supporting bus usage which include extending the £2 scheme to the end of 2024. Hertfordshire Council also received an investment of £1,488,381 in bus services across the area. Plus the Government announced £8 billion to improve road infrastructure.

"I will always make sure that I stand up for bus users and they are listened to."

Watford Observer: Matt TurmaineMatt Turmaine

Matt Turmaine, Labour

"Using, or trying to use the buses in Watford is a fraught experience, I catch them, so I know.

"The problem goes back to when bus services were deregulated in 1985, allowing bus operators to pick and choose where and when routes ran.

"The theory was increased private competition would benefit passengers and lower fares. A free-market bus bonanza, apparently.

"In practice buses have been going downhill with a patchy and unreliable service here, no competition and something of a late-night desert of an evening.

"We have a situation where, as with Arriva's decision to withdraw the 328 at short notice, the operator is king and the travelling public get what they are given, if they are lucky - or nothing at all, if a new operator isn’t found.

"If a route doesn't turn a profit, it’s no good to companies like Arriva, but they're a lifeline for many, not to mention getting kids to school and workers to work.

"Priorities need to change. If Labour wins the election, we’ll give local leaders more control and flexibility over bus funding; allow every community to take back control of their buses; step-in to safeguard local bus networks and support public ownership - so buses are run for the benefits of passengers, not rip-off profits.

"Since 2010, our region has seen over 35 million fewer miles travelled by bus, a drop of over 31 per cent. If we are serious about a sustainable, affordable bus service, we need to vote for it."

Watford Observer: Ian StotesburyIan Stotesbury

Ian Stotesbury, Liberal Democrat

"Unreliable bus and train services are constantly affecting all our lives, making our journeys longer and less certain, fuelling congestion in the town. Unreliability means that it’s hard to choose to use the bus services, and ultimately the operator mistakenly pulls back services and investment. What we need is a change of model – we need to build a positive not negative spiral of investment and usage – we need a highly reliable service with more points of connectivity to give people a real choice to use public transport.

"Many places across our town are barely served by buses at all, some of our stations like Watford Met, or areas like the Harebreaks have just a few services that run infrequently and inconsistently, but even those services aren’t safe. We’re opposing Arriva's recent proposal to drop the 328 service running through the Harebreaks - we need radical change.

"Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats are proposing franchising the buses to allow for strategic investment, but Conservative Hertfordshire County Council recently rejected this idea – in part because of the economic crisis government has delivered. This is short-term and flawed, real investment in public transport, buses and rail, will pay for itself. Local routes that reliably connect us will provide a service we can trust and use. To support the wider transport network we will continue to call for Watford stations to be rezoned to zone 6, for line improvements to be made to Euston and for better interchange with buses and at our stations."