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Outrage as county council axes village bus service
12:00pm Wednesday 15th January 2014 in News
BUS users have been left outraged after discovering Worcestershire County Council has already put the brakes on the 197 Hagley to Kidderminster route - before a consultation over subsidised routes has finished.
The once a day service, which takes passengers on a scenic trip through the villages of Clent, Belbroughton and Blakedown, will stop running on Friday February 21.
Transport users, however, have hit out over the loss of the service - saying they thought they had until Friday (January 17) to have their say over whether it would continue and until September before any changes were made.
Worcestershire County Council, which wants to save the £3m it currently spends on subsidising bus routes as part of a £30m package of cuts, say the 197 was included in the consultation document by mistake - and the plan is to replace it with a community transport scheme.
A spokesman said: "This service does not come under the current bus consultation and it was an error that it appeared in any consultation papers."
She added: "An alternative transport option is available by a local community transport provider. Residents wishing to access the service will need to pre-book their journey. The alternative option of a community transport service is part of the transformation of transport provision in the county by which more affordable local solutions better suited to people's needs are being investigated and implemented wherever possible."
Bus user Janet Bloomfield, aged 66, from Clent, said "it was a big shock" to discover the 197 was being axed - especially when there is uncertainty over the future of other services, including the 318 (run by Hansons) linking Hagley with Stourbridge, Bromsgrove and villages in between. She added: "If they don't keep the 318 we'd have to move - I'd be stuck."
Neil Lambert, aged 60, from Hagley, also spoke out over the loss of the 197, which had been funded jointly with the 7A service by the county council to the tune of £7,593 a year since 2011. He said the scrapping of the service would hit the elderly hardest and added: "People are very fond of it. We need to know who made that decision and why."
Noreen Higgott, aged 76, from Hagley, said many pensioners who use the service with their free bus passes would be willing to pay to keep it going.
She added: "It would be better than losing it. The bus service means a lot to people like me who like to get out in the day.
"It's a very, very good service and most people who use it are aged between 70 and 80. People aren't going to be able to get out of their homes if there are no buses; they're going to get depressed."
From Saturday February 22 former passengers of the 197 will have to pre-book rides with either Bromsgrove Community Transport or Wyre Forest Dial a Ride.
Full details of the replacement scheme are still being finalised, the county council told the News, but to find out more contact Bromsgrove Community Transport on 01527 879290, or Wyre Forest Dial a Ride on 01562 755084 or email WyreForest@dial-a-ride86.freeserve.co.uk.
The county council's bus services consultation, which will determine the fate of other subsidised routes in Worcestershire, closes on Friday January 17.
People can have their say by visiting website www.worcestershire.gov.uk/busservicereview
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