Angry villagers ‘left isolated’ as bus services face axe

Elwick Parish Councillor Hilary Thompson (left) with fellow village residents at one of the bus stops in the village
Elwick Parish Councillor Hilary Thompson (left) with fellow village residents at one of the bus stops in the village

RURAL communities could be isolated from the rest of Hartlepool when planned bus cuts leave them without any public transport services.

Residents in Elwick and Dalton Piercy, on the outskirts of town, will be without any bus services during the day or night when Stagecoach and Tees Valley Coach Travel services are withdrawn.

It comes after support from Hartlepool Borough Council was cut in the budget.

Angry residents say the move will have a “catastrophic” affect on village life and have launched a petition to urge town mayor Stuart Drummond and his cabinet to reverse the cuts.

They say the move will leave people unable to access doctors, hospital and dental appointments, as there are no such services in the villages.

Students could face a walk of more than an hour while there have also been complaints there are no pavements leading into Hartlepool.

At the moment people can hop on the hourly 516 Tees Valley Coach service during the day or the hourly 518 Stagecoach service at night.

But those supported bus services are set to be axed from the end of this month, leaving villagers without a bus service.

Council bosses say they are looking at the possibility of providing a limited service using vehicles from its own 27-bus fleet, which are used for school runs and to take youngsters to swimming sessions, but plans are at a very early stage.

People living in the Burbank Street area of Hartlepool have also sent in a petition to council leaders, as they too will be affected by the withdrawal of the 516 service. Councillors recently approved the budget for next year, which included axing £287,000 from the supported bus service budget for routes that operators say are not commercially viable.

Independent councillor for Elwick, Hilary Thompson, said: “Feelings are running high over this issue.

“We all know that council cuts were inevitable because of the savage cuts in government grant, but for the villages to have no public transport at all is totally unacceptable.

“Our older residents in particular rely on the bus service for shopping, essential appointments and social interaction and there is no doubt that well-being will suffer if people are isolated.”

Robin Knight, commercial director of Stagecoach North East, said: “Following reductions in public transport funding, Hartlepool Council has regrettably instructed us to withdraw a number of services including the 518, as of Sunday, March 27. The last day of operation will be March 26.

“As a result of the council’s funding cuts the whole service 518, which currently operates Monday to Saturday evenings only will be withdrawn.

“We would like to reassure our passengers that no Stagecoach commercial services in Hartlepool have been affected by the council’s decisions and will continue as normal.”

A Tees Valley Coach Travel spokesman said: “The number of people using the bus does not cover the cost of running the service.

“We understand that these services are needed, but with the council withdrawing the financial subsidy, the service is not viable.”

A council spokesman said: “We are currently examining our existing council-owned buses and how we use them to see whether there is any leeway for providing any limited transport support within the community in the light of the withdrawal of the supported services. We must stress that this is just at a very exploratory stage.”

Both villages have started petitions and they can be signed at Elwick Village Post Office, off The Green, in Elwick, or at McKie’s General Dealers, in Egerton Terrace, Greatham.