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BOXING DAY BUSES BLOW; Travel chaos fears as all services axed.

Byline: MARTYN LEEK

FOOTBALL fans are facing Boxing Day chaos after the withdrawal of all public transport in Birmingham.

Operators revealed yesterday that not a single bus, tram, or train will be running on Wednesday December 26.

The bombshell news leaves fans planning to attend the mouth-watering Aston Villa v Liverpool match at Villa Park stranded.

Shoppers and theatre-goers, including families hoping to attend Christmas pantomines, have also been left high and dry. The ``commercial decision'' to cancel the Boxing Day services for the second year running has also sparked fears that the Government's tough anti-drink drive message will be undermined.

Boxing Day is traditionally one of the biggest football draws of the year.

Games which could be affected include the Villa v Liverpool clash, while Wolves are being visited by Preston North End and Walsall FC play host to Crewe.

Last night Mark Goodwin, of Aston Villa Supporter's Club, said: ``This is a nightmare. I don't know why they don't lay on some special buses.''

Alan Jones, of West Bromwich Albion Supporter's Club, said: ``This really is not acceptable.

``There are a lot of people who work on Boxing Day now and they have been able to run transport before, so why can't they do it again?''

Many panto-goers will also be left in the lurch.

Paul Steeples, marketing director at the Birmingham Hippodrome, which is staging Dick Whittington, said: ``We have sold-out on Boxing Day for two full houses of 1,800 people. We just hope they will be able to make it.''

Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Hall Green, branded the decision a ``disgrace''.

He said: ``They are treating the paying public with contempt. The operators and Centro have had all year to sort this out. It makes Birmingham and the Midlands a joke.''

A Centro spokesman said: ``To subsidise each service would cost us a great deal of money.

``The absence of any Boxing Day services is a commercial decision taken by the private operators. But we will be holding talks with them.''

Phil Bateman, spokesman for the region's biggest bus company, Travel West Midlands, said: ``We've tried laying on Boxing Day services in the past and found there wasnodemand for them. They are not financially viable.''
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2001
Words:371
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