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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Villagers unite to try to save rural bus ‘lifeline’

VILLAGERS are protesting against plans to axe a subsidised bus service running through Nethertown, claiming it will leave them isolated.

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WE NEED OUR BUS: Nethertown parish councilor Stephen Clague, right, and some of the village’s residents who are angry that their limited bus service could be cut completely

By Sarah Robinson

Cumbria County Council proposes to cut funding to the 836 Braystones to Egremont bus service in the latest round of budget cuts. But villagers say the Brownriggs bus is a lifeline as they travel to GP appointments, go shopping, run errands and take part in social activities.

They say the loss of the service will leave them isolated, lonely and they will be forced to travel by taxi.

Margaret Alderson, of Nethertown, set up a petition against the proposals which gained 120 signatures. This has been presented to Cumbria County Council.

She relies on the bus service as she stopped driving when diagnosed with macular degeneration. She said: “This once-daily bus service has helped me with my mobility and independence. It’s only one bus a day either way but it’s a big help.”

Factors like a growing population in Nethertown and the ageing population highlight the need for the service, she said. “Once it’s gone it’s gone. Even if they route it a bit better and join the service with the service bus that runs through St Bees.”

Representatives from Lowside Quarter Parish Council have written to Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn, explaining that residents from Nethertown, Middletown and Caulderton all have concerns.

Stephanie Cross, parish council clerk, said more than 80 residents live on Lakeland View, which is exclusively for over 50s. “Several of these residents have recently had to surrender their driving licence or have lost their partners, who were the only licence holder,” she said. “Therefore, they in particular, depend on the bus service to allow them to attend doctor or dentist appointments, collect prescriptions or medicine and keep up social contact with relatives and friends.”

Stephen Clague, parish council chair, said: “It’s not overly used but people do use it – it’s a lifeline.”

He said residents previously complained about the limited service as they want it to run more frequently. Now, they are concerned it will go altogether.

Mr Clague runs a caravan and camp site and says holidaymakers use the bus to travel to surrounding towns.

Pauline Adams, of Nethertown, occasionally uses the service. She said: “If you don’t drive, you’ve had it. We are going to be very isolated. There is quite a lot of elderly people living in the park homes and it’ll affect many of them.”

Motorist Gene Tomlinson, who is in her eighties, said: “There are occasions when I just can’t use the car and so the bus is very handy.”

Last week The Whitehaven News reported that Cumbria County Council is setting aside £1million to help it phase in its proposed reductions over the next 12 months. This means that alternative transport options can be looked at.

The Cabinet’s draft budget will be voted on at Cumbria County Council’s full council meeting today (Thursday).

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