Bus cuts hit most vulnerable

AT A time when the public is bombarded with messages telling it to dump the car, people could be forgiven for being confused by the latest round of bus service cuts.

AT A time when the public is bombarded with messages telling it to dump the car, people could be forgiven for being confused by the latest round of bus service cuts.

First's decision to axe two important services, the 121 and 4, will leave thousands of North Somerset residents with no way to make vital journeys to town.

As usual, the worst-hit people will be those who are most vulnerable and the least able to find an alternative.

Pensioners in the villages of Churchill, Langford, Wrington and Hutton, along with those on Weston's hillside will have a 'lifeline' service taken away.


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While the bus company claims to have no alternative but to cut the routes due to poor passenger numbers, it says nothing about what will happen to the regular and dedicated travellers who rely on them.

Unless somebody else steps into the breach or North Somerset Council stumps up cash to subsidise new routes, these people will be unable to travel to medical appointments, weekly shopping trips or to make social trips.

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The elderly residents' only alternative is to take a relatively expensive taxi ride to the nearest station, which most can scarcely afford in these difficult economic times.

Weston's MP John Penrose and the unitary authority's transport chief Elfan Ap Rees have both criticised the company.

Cllr Ap Rees says the council will try to find the cash to pay for replacement routes, but should it have to?

Although First is a private company, its duty is to run a public service and residents of the affected areas will wonder why it will not take the rough, less profitable routes, with the smooth, cash cow services.

In the six months to September 2008, First's holding company announced pre-tax profits of �107.1million and increased shareholder dividends, but still insists it must cut crucial buses in North Somerset.

Many people are at the mercy of such companies and may rightly ask why they are not getting more protection.

Because if private firms are not forced to treat everybody fairly, the impact could indeed be as one Langford resident put it 'devastating'.

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