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Bus users attack 'vicious' council cut

PUBLISHED: 16:30 06 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:15 01 August 2010

A medical practice has joined the supporters of a doomed bus service which was described as "a lifeline" by its users this week.

Many of those who use the popular volunteer-run bus will be stranded at home or have to rely on taxis once it is gone at the end of the month.

A medical practice has joined the supporters of a doomed bus service which was described as “a lifeline” by its users this week.

Many of those who use the popular volunteer-run bus will be stranded at home or have to rely on taxis once it is gone at the end of the month. Suffolk County Council is not renewing the contract for the door-to-door 511 bus, which serves Halesworth and nearby Holton, in order to save £13,000 a year.

Instead it is extending the route of the 521 to go through the town - but it will be a standard commercial service which will not go to people's doors and will not be able to give them the same help with wheelchairs or shopping.

Catherine Northover, a GP at Cutlers Hill surgery, Halesworth, said it was an “invaluable service”.

She said: “As a practice we are very disappointed. We feel this is detrimental to our patients, who will be forced to ask for home visits instead of coming up to the surgery. These patients cannot use standard public transport and so will no longer be able to visit the shops or day centre, which will be detrimental to their physical and mental health.”

Tina McCarthy, 62, who regularly gets the bus to the shops, is getting together a petition. She said: “A lot of people don't see anyone for days on end and this is a social thing, a necessary community service.”

Joy Wright, 73, said: “I cannot walk very far, and without this bus I would have to depend on taxis.”

Dawn Drummond, 67, said: “It is a marvellous service. I have arthritis in my knees and cannot walk very far. I feel very sorry for the people who are much older than me. I am very angry to think that people will not be able to get to the surgery once it is gone.”

Lorna Guthrie, 91, who has used the bus for 11 years, said: “I am very upset. I have contacted my MP and contacted Rainbow to ask for sponsorship and done everything I can think of.”

Doug Gray, who is a volunteer driver, said: “Whether they are in a wheelchair or cannot walk very well, this stops them from being housebound. It is an extension of their independence. They know if they have difficulty in getting to the stops they can phone us and we will come to their door. They know if they have bags and baggage we are more than happy to get them to the door. It is not a normal mode of transport, it is a lifeline.

“Everybody on the bus is familiar with each other an`d you will find someone says, 'You are not looking very happy today, what's the problem?' and it is a problem shared. It is a community link. You are not going to get that with a regular bus.”

Agnes Thurston, 75, has heart problems which mean she will not be able to walk to the bus stop, and she cannot get her husband Russell's wheelchair on to a normal bus or in a car.

“I quite often use it to go to a painting class and sometimes to take my husband, who is in a wheelchair, to the surgery. The bus is very useful for us. We cannot use a normal bus or a car - even if there was space for the wheelchair on the bus I would not be able to lift him on to it.”

Clare Neville, 67, said: “I think it is disgraceful. There are a lot of people who use it.”

Peter Coghill, who is a volunteer driver and the Labour candidate for Halesworth on the district council, said: “Last Friday I drove 45 passengers, most of whom are quite disabled.

“They are not going to be collected now. This is a particularly vicious cut by the county council.”

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