TRANSPORT chiefs have promised an answer soon on the possible future of a “lifeline” rural bus service.
The Dial-a-Ride 695 Adapt service between remote Blanchland and Hexham, in Northumberland, is overrunning its subsidy budget and faces closure next year.
But the dozen elderly regulars in the hamlets and villages en-route who use the weekly service have banded together with a petition to plead for a reprieve.
They have put a number of suggestions to Northumberland County Council, including a voluntary fare from the pensioners, who are entitled to free travel. Now county transport support manager Ian Coe has praised the pensioners’ initiative, and promised them an answer within a fortnight.
He said: “We welcome these proposals. It is a very good example of communities helping themselves and working with the council.
“We are examining the proposals and we will be writing to the communities concerned within the next two weeks to let them know our decision.”
The county council says the £3,655 subsidy it pays the service, at £7 per passenger, is above local authority guidelines which recommend a maximum £5.
Passengers who signed a petition pleading for the service to be retained have told transport chiefs they are prepared to pay a fare to keep their treasured bus on the road.
The service has already had one stay of execution, but is scheduled to be terminated in April 2013.
Barbara Simmons, 73, who lives outside Slaley and uses the bus each week, organised the petition.
She said: “We have had a very understanding response from our local parish councils, who are all thinking of ways to help us.
“They are genuinely concerned that we should not lose the bus.
“We have all offered to pay a reasonable fare as the bus is our lifeline.
“I suffer from shortage of breath and certainly could not walk into the village, but the bus comes to my door and the driver even carries my bag on board for me.
“I could hardly imagine life without the bus.”
Brian Massey, chairman of Hexhamshire Parish Council, said: “We are awaiting more information on figures from the county council before considering the matter further.
“But we are offering to help and are prepared to look very positively at the proposals.”
We have all offered to pay a reasonable fare as the bus is our lifeline ... it comes to my door