Vital bus service restored to village

Villagers have welcomed the restoration of a vital bus service which links their rural Northumberland community to local doctors' surgeries and takes workers and shoppers into Tyneside.

Villagers have welcomed the restoration of a vital bus service which links their rural Northumberland community to local doctors' surgeries and takes workers and shoppers into Tyneside.

Residents in Heddon-on-the-Wall were furious six months ago when the village was dropped from the Arriva 684 service between Ovington and Newcastle city centre.

Arriva had stepped in to save the service - after previous operator Go Ahead pulled the plug - but then decided to re-route it, leaving people in Heddon stranded and furious.

It meant villagers had no bus service to their two local GP surgeries in Wylam, five miles away, and greatly reduced links for work, shopping and other journeys into Newcastle.

Since September people in Heddon have had to pay more than £12 on return taxi fares or beg lifts from friends and neighbours if they want to go to see their doctors in Wylam or Throckley.

Now - following discussions between Arriva, Northumberland County Council and Nexus - a funding package has been put in place to restore the 684 service through Heddon from March 19, to the delight of local campaigners.

Yesterday local borough and county councillor Peter Jackson said: "It has taken months of effort but eventually we have got this service back.

"It was always seen as a lifeline for people in Heddon, particularly because of the link to the surgeries in Wylam.

"From March 19 we will have a one and a half-hourly service through Heddon which will go into Newcastle and also take people to the GP surgeries in Wylam and Throckley.

"I have had huge amounts of communication from people in Heddon, saying how important this bus service is to their lives."

Heddon Women's Institute chairman Aileen Rand said: "Its loss has caused big problems and I am sure villagers will be absolutely delighted with this news.

"We should give thanks to Coun Jackson and others who have made this happen."

Fellow WI member Helena Munro-Porter said: "It has been really difficult getting from Heddon to Wylam to the doctors' surgeries and it costs about £6.50 each way in a taxi."

When Arriva took over the 684 service it dropped Heddon from the route so that buses could instead travel to the MetroCentre in Gateshead before going on to Newcastle city centre.

In response to a deluge of complaints about the decision, Arriva promised to look into the possibility of restoring the link between Heddon and Wylam.

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