Villagers fight loss of bus lifeline'

PUBLISHED: 15:28 01 February 2007 | UPDATED: 13:48 04 May 2010

LITTLE Downham villagers are fighting to save their bus service which could be axed as part of county council spending cuts. They claim the 125 service is a lifeline to many villagers and, without it, residents wouldn t be able to get to work or into Ely

LITTLE Downham villagers are fighting to save their bus service which could be axed as part of county council spending cuts.

They claim the 125 service is a lifeline to many villagers and, without it, residents wouldn't be able to get to work or into Ely to visit the doctor or collect prescriptions.

But now Cambridgeshire County Council is considering pulling the plug on its subsidies which keep the 125 and 213 services on the road.

The move, which would come into effect in April, would save the council more than £43,000 a year on buses which it claims run almost empty.

Little Downham Parish Council is fighting the cuts and has taken its battle to its MP Malcolm Moss, South East Cambridgeshire MP, Jim Paice and its district and county councillors.

Chairman Cllr Keith Norton, said: "Parishioners need the 125 service because for many it's a lifeline. It's their only form of affordable transport to Ely for work, visit the doctor, collect prescriptions, shopping etc.

"The parish council supports its parishioners' concerns and has put forward its objections to the proposals.

"The bus service is a vital facility for this rural community. The parish is deprived of certain amenities that some people can live without; however, the loss of the bus service would put many people in isolation and, in some cases, take away their livelihoods".

The 125 service runs every day except Sundays to and from Ely and costs the county council just over £36,000. The council claims the service is used on average by just four people on each journey.

The 213 service runs once a week via Littleport to Bury St Edmunds and costs the council about £7,000 a year for 13 people on average per journey, claims the council.

Cllr Norton said villagers were prepared to accept the withdrawal of the 213 service and had suggested minor changes to the 125 timetable, incorporating the use of the Park and Ride service on Saturdays.

Ely Social Car Scheme and Ely and Soham Dial-a-Ride have been suggested as alternative forms of transport, but the parish council claims each has a restricted service and not everyone is eligible to use them.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said the council subsidises 80 services throughout the county at a cost of £3 million, less than half of which comes from the Government.

The cost of providing these services went up 11 per cent last year and has been going up well above inflation over the last few years, he said.

"This is a national problem," he added. "Over 50 per cent of all shire counties are looking at bus services because they can't afford them.

"We are looking at either changing or withdrawing 15 services which would save £350,000. But no decision has been made and we are looking at trying to find alternatives."

North East Cambridgeshire MP Malcolm Moss said: "Communities should not be cut off in this way. It makes no sense to take all the public transport away from Little Downham.

"The Government blithely talks about subsidised bus passes for the elderly and then doesn't give the county the money."

INFO: Anyone wishing to express a view on the 125 service can write to: Paul Nelson, Cambridgeshire County Council Public Transport Section, Box ET1015, Castle Court, Shire Hall, Cambridge CB3 0AP.

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