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Life-line bus service is saved

PUBLISHED: 17:20 03 July 2008 | UPDATED: 07:30 01 August 2010

A COMMUNITY bus which is a lifeline for elderly people has had its future secured after funeral directors stepped in to sponsor it.

The 511 service in Halesworth looked set to close when Suffolk County Council withdrew its funding at the end of March, but its operator, Halesworth Area Community Transport (HACT), pledged it would keep it going at least for another six months.

A COMMUNITY bus which is a lifeline for elderly people has had its future secured after funeral directors stepped in to sponsor it.

The 511 service in Halesworth looked set to close when Suffolk County Council withdrew its funding at the end of March, but its operator, Halesworth Area Community Transport (HACT), pledged it would keep it going at least for another six months. The service is unique because, unlike a scheduled bus, it will pick people up from their doors if they cannot get to the bus stop. It is run by volunteers who will help people in wheelchairs or with heavy shopping.

Now Woolnoughs Funeral Service has agreed to support the service for the next three years, which comes as a relief to the frail elderly of the town.

Woolnoughs did not want to say how much money was changing hands, but said the company was underwriting the service.

The service will continue to run four days a week - Monday to Wednesday and Friday. A new timetable will be issued over the next few days and will be available from the library or HACT office at the railway station.

John Levy, chairman of HACT, said: “The 511 service is now safe for the next three years. I am delighted to be signing this agreement, and would like to thank Woolnoughs Funeral Service for their generous sponsorship. On behalf of HACT, I would like to thank everyone who has supported the campaign since funding was withdrawn back in March, and also the volunteers who have kept the service running during this unsettled time.”

Tina Norton, from Woolnoughs Funeral Service, said: “HACT operates the only service which goes directly to the GP surgery, hospital as well as to the supermarket, and is a vital lifeline to so many. Knowing the importance of this service and what it means to so many people in Halesworth and Holton, we are delighted to sign this sponsorship agreement and therefore secure the future of the service for the next three years.”

Janet Wright, chairman of Halesworth Town Council, said it was very important that the bus had received backing: “It goes to the places that the other buses can't get to and when the funding was withdrawn a lot of people were displaced.

“We do have a quite good bus service in Halesworth but they're not specific like the 511 is. It's great for the older community especially.”

The service is looking for volunteer drivers for private hire at evenings and weekends. Contact the office on 01986 875900 if you can help.

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