Hagley family fear elderly and disabled will be "totally stuck" if council bus cuts go ahead (From Stourbridge News)
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Hagley family fear elderly and disabled will be "totally stuck" if council bus cuts go ahead
8:00am Wednesday 18th December 2013 in News
A HAGLEY family fear elderly and disabled people in the village will be cut off if plans to axe subsidies for rural bus services go ahead.
Neil Lambert, who lives in Wind’s Point with his 25-year-old disabled son Andrew, and his 88-year-old mother Evelyn Lambert, who also lives in the street, rely heavily on bus services for trips across the border from Worcestershire into the West Midlands.
But Worcestershire County Council is planning to scrap the £3million it spends on subsidising 20 per cent of bus journeys as part of a £30m package of cuts - which could lead to further reductions in rural public transport services.
Mr Lambert, who doesn’t drive, and his mother, who may soon have to give up her licence due to her ageing years, say they are so concerned about the situation they have put their homes up for sale with a view to moving to the Dudley borough where public transport is more frequent and accessible.
He told the News: “This is the second time we’ve had this consultation, we managed to stop it last time – this time we might have more difficulty.”
Mr Lambert, aged 60, whose son Andrew is a member of Dudley’s Special Olympics team, said people living in rural areas without access to a car will be “totally stuck” unless they shell out for costly taxi rides - and he slammed those behind the proposal as “not having a clue about the needs of the elderly and disabled”.
Bus services at risk in the Hagley area are the 192 (run by Whittle Coach and Bus) which links Hagley with Halesowen, Kidderminster and Stourport; the 197 (run by Worcestershire County Council) which links Hagley with Kidderminster and various Worcestershire villages; and the 318 (run by Hansons) which links Hagley with Stourbridge, Bromsgrove and villages in between.
Mr Lambert, who helps to run a pensioners' lunch club called Hand of Friendship which meets at Hagley Free Church every Thursday , added: “There are only three bus services which the elderly in Hagley can use. They’re all important.
“We really need to be encouraging public transport, especially buses, but we’re not.
“In Worcestershire around 40,000 people do not drive – many of these could be stranded.”
Caroline Hoddinott, headteacher at Haybridge High School, has also expressed concern over the plan to scrap the subsidy which plugs gaps in the commercial transport network.
She said: “Not only are these services which many families and members of our community rely upon, but the removal has the potential to increase still further the traffic congestion on both Brake Lane and in the village.”
Rachel Jenkins, county councillor for Clent Hills, is also “not in favour” of the proposal which she fears could see some services lost altogether.
She said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea - 400 new homes are going up in Hagley because of its great transport links and since that plan has gone through bus subsidies are going to be cut so services are going to be reduced.”
A spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council said: "The financial challenge the council is currently faced with means there has to be tough decisions made on how taxpayers' money is spent. This issue is such an example."
The majority of bus services across the county will not be affected as they are run commercially, council bosses say, and they are urging people to take part in the public consultation which runs until Friday January 17.
The spokesman added: "It's vital we have as much information as possible from the public when it comes to making a final decision on the proposals currently on the table."
Any changes to services will not be implemented until September 2014.
To have your say visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/busservicereview - or pick up a hard copy consultation document from any Worcestershire library.
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