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Threatened bus service could be saved

PUBLISHED: 10:25 17 March 2008 | UPDATED: 07:17 01 August 2010

A BUS service which is a lifeline for elderly and disabled people may be saved after all, it emerged yesterday.

Many of those who use the popular volunteer-run bus feared they would be stranded at home or have to rely on taxis once it was gone at the start of April.

A BUS service which is a lifeline for elderly and disabled people may be saved after all, it emerged yesterday.

Many of those who use the popular volunteer-run bus feared they would be stranded at home or have to rely on taxis once it was gone at the start of April. 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 combining the 511 and 521 services in a new 601 - a standard commercial service which will not go to people's doors or give them the same help with wheelchairs or shopping.

Now the council says it could fund Halesworth Area Community Transport, the volunteer-run service which runs the 511, to run a free dial-a-ride type service.

Company secretary Tony Goldson said: “We had a very positive meeting, at their request. They put some proposals on a possible way forward. It will continue in a slightly different way but the people of Halesworth will benefit.”

Philip Magill, contracts and information manager at the council, said: “We are going ahead with the replacement 601 but, as we said at the start, there was a community element of the service, for those with mobility problems, which it would not be able to provide.

“There will be a dial-a-ride type service for those who cannot walk to the bus stop. It is at the talking stage, but we are very hopeful.”

The Cutlers Hill surgery has also backed the 511, describing it as an “invaluable service”. GP Catherine Northover warned that losing the service would have meant carrying out more home visits and so being able to see fewer patients.

Bus user Tina McCarthy, 62, who has been organising a petition to save it, 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.”

Doug Gray, 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. It is not a normal mode of transport, it is a lifeline.”

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