Residents in North East Somerset have been left “frustrated” and relying on dial-a-ride services after their bus services were axed.
The 82 between Paulton and Radstock, and the 179 and 768 which both run between Midsomer Norton and Bath, all stopped running at the weekend after a funding row left no branch of local government agreeing to pay for them.
Marion Harrington, 90, who lives in Westfield has lost her regular bus. She said: “We haven’t got the freedom we want.”
Ms Harrington used to get the 82 into Midsomer Norton but said she has had to use dial-a-ride to get to appointments and the shops since it has been cut.
She said: “Instead of being able to go out and get the bus and go when I want to, I have had to book when they can fit me in. And it’s costing me £4.50 per journey. So already I have spent £9 this week.”
She added: “At the moment we are all really frustrated. We can’t go out when we want to.”
On 25th April, Ms Harrington addressed Bath and North East Somerset Council’s annual meeting, urging them to find the money to keep the bus running.
She told them: “The 82 bus service is a lifeline which has enabled us to go to the dentist, doctors, and post office, and to do our shopping.”
She presented the council with a 468-signature petition to keep the bus and said: “There’s been a lot of people relying on me tonight to get this message across.”
The 82, 179, and 768 are supported bus services, meaning that they are funded by local government because they would not be profitable to run on a commercial basis.
The West of England Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, is the “transport authority” responsible for commissioning buses across the West of England but, with no power to raise taxes, Mr Norris has relied on a transport levy paid by local councils to fund buses.
But after Bath and North East Somerset Council — together with Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council — failed to increase this levy in line with inflation, cuts to services across the West of England were announced.
Bath and North East Somerset Council leader Kevin Guy has said Mr Norris should use some of the £57.7m “bus service improvement” funding he was given by the government to pay for the supported buses, and Mr Norris has recently indicated he could fund some routes on a 50/50 basis with local councils.
Tom Churchill, who was the bus driver of the 82 until it was cut, has urged the politicians to make a deal, insisting: “It’s not too late to reinstate my service.”
He said: “The vehicle is ready, I’m ready, and the passengers want it back so let’s make that happen.”
John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter