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A PILOT bus scheme aimed at helping stranded villagers is set to launch - but people are being warned to use it or lose it.
Paul’s Travel launches the eight-week pilot scheme on Monday to provide free transport for the residents of Elwick and Dalton Piercy, who have been without public transport since last spring.
People living in the Burbank area of Hartlepool will also benefit from the three-day-a-week service.
But councillors are warning people if they do not use the service, it could quickly be withdrawn.
It was initially expected that people would have to pay during the pilot scheme, but Paul’s Travel has confirmed it will be free for the first eight weeks as they look to cover costs through funding contributions.
After that there will be a charge unless people have concession passes.
Parish councils, supermarkets and housing associations have all been approached to help fund the £3,500 cost of the pilot.
Elwick Parish Council has already agreed to fund part of the scheme but councillors are still looking for funding contributions.
Independent Elwick councillor Hilary Thompson said: “The pilot scheme will be free to everybody for the first eight weeks.
“After that there will be a charge unless people have concessionary passes.
“It is entirely up to the public whether this continues after the eight week period.
“The message is clear; use it or lose it.”
Coun Thompson added: “If anyone feels that they can support this scheme, then please contact me.
“This will mean a great deal to the people who have been left in isolation in different areas of town.”
Paul’s Travel, which is run by Paul, 42, and Sue Little, 39, is providing a 16-seater bus but another one could be called if that one is full.
The Oxford Road-based firm stepped in after bus companies axed daytime and evening services as a result of Hartlepool Borough Council removing its £287,000 supported bus services funding.
Bus companies said the routes were not viable to run, but it left villagers without public transport.
If the service is viable, Paul’s Travel will apply to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) for the relevant licences to allow them to claim money back for concessionary travel from the council after the trial period.
Labour Stranton councillor Robbie Payne has previously said that this is the “last chance saloon” and urged people to use it.
The bus will run on Monday, Thursday and Friday and leave Elwick at 9.15am, 11.15am and 1.15pm for the 45-minute journey into the centre of Hartlepool.
There are 16 stops and the bus will go from the villages to the town centre via Dunston Road, Ryehill Gardens, Victoria Road, Maritime Avenue, Schooner Court, Mainsforth Terrace and Burbank Street.
The return bus will leave from outside of the Hartlepool College of Further Education at 12.15pm, 2.15pm and 4.30pm.
Anyone wishing to donate funding should call Coun Thompson on (01429) 272532 or Coun Payne on (01429) 222649.