Savage bus cuts in her village have prompted one long-time bus user to write an open letter to her local council. In it, she explains the devastating impact these cuts are having on the lives of her family and the wider community.
Open letter from a bus user to her local County Council
Since the axing of our local bus service and changes to the rules of carriage on the school service, our village has effectively been ‘cut off’ from the wider community and other transport links.
The impact has been extremely damaging to people who relied on public transport. The elderly, young people, those on low wages are now subjected to isolation and a lack of opportunity to access services and facilities most take for granted.
As a non-driver I relied on bus travel to maintain employment: since the axing of the service, I have tried to continue in my employment, relying on the goodwill of neighbours and colleagues. With different work patterns and holidays, however, this has become impossible. The people in our village who do not have access to a car, no longer have an opportunity to access employment, training or the job centre.
My daughter is unable to attend after school clubs or GCSE revision sessions, take part in her Duke of Edinburgh Award or take drama at GCSE. She now has to leave promptly at the end of the school day in order to catch the school bus directly home. Her brother, who schooled two years previously, enjoyed participating in all of the above using our local Link service, enabling him to get home independently.
Young people in our area must now attend a ‘designated sixth form’ at post 16 as there is no independent means of travelling to any other college or apprenticeship, restricting their choice and opportunities. The 6 mile walk to the nearest bus stop which gives access to the rest of the county and all other transport links is simply too far.
There is no means of leaving the village during school holidays: holidays are now spent at home. My children used to enjoy meeting up with friends, using the library, leisure centre and cinema. We used to enjoy family time visiting places of interest around the county. Life is now restricted and isolating. I worry about the social impact on my children and their safe mental health as their only means of maintaining friendships is through social media.
Lack of affordable, accessible, efficient transport options prevent those who rely on a bus service from maintaining health care and hospital appointments. When axing the daily service which used to run Monday to Saturday in our village (due to its size) we were promised a ‘safety net service’ by our County Council to ensure socially necessary journeys, like hospital appointments, would continue to be met.
In November, I received a hospital appointment for cancer screening. I phoned to book a car with my local community car provider, but they had no availability. I was passed to a neighbouring scheme which kindly took the booking but on the day of the appointment, did not turn up. My appointment was missed and cancelled, the testing delayed. The ‘safety net service’ does not work.
In December I had three hospital appointments. Using community cars this would have cost a total of £70 – a charge that pensioners must also pay: these charges are an obstacle to accessing health care.
I have been in correspondence with my local Council for some time, highlighting the impact of bus cuts over a long period of time. I believe the difficulties our village faces are not unique and show a ‘gap in provision’. I understand the difficulties councils are facing in today’s climate, but I think there must be affordable ways to keep villages like ours connected. Records will show there was never an empty bus on our local route, it was always busy.
I ask you to give further consideration to this issue.