Villagers stranded by bus cuts

Celia Olley pictured in her Elwick Village home.
Celia Olley pictured in her Elwick Village home.

A PENSIONER is considering selling her home after village residents were left stranded by budget cuts.

Angry residents in Elwick village, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, say they have been left isolated since bus services to their community were scrapped after cuts last year..

Almost a year on, Hartlepool Borough councillor for the village, Coun Hilary Thompson, said the cuts are “really starting to hit home”, but she is still hopeful there will be a solution.

One of those hit is Celia Olley, 80, who moved to Elwick 26 years ago after the death of her husband Leonard, and had hoped to spend the rest of her life in the quaint village.

But now Mrs Olley says she feels “cut off” after daytime and evening bus services were scrapped in Elwick and neighbouring Dalton Piercy as part of budget cuts.

The retired care attendant, of the village’s North Close, said: “I am considering selling my house due to the lack of transport.

“I have loved living here and made a lot of good friends, but we feel so cut off and isolated.

“Since the buses were cut I have been looking through the property pages and I would move back to Hartlepool if I could.

“The last thing I want to do at my time of life is to move house.”

Mrs Olley is waiting to see whether some sort of bus service is returned before putting her house up for sale.

The grandmother of two and great-grandmother of eight added: “I used to enjoy getting the bus to Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Durham.

“But a return taxi to Hartlepool costs me £10 and I have to use them three times a week.

“That is a lot of money on a pension.

“Even a bus service on two days a week would be better than nothing.”

Mrs Olley is mum to Michael Olley, 60, and Andrew Olley, who died of lung cancer six years ago at the age of 53.

Her husband Leonard died in 1985 at the age of 54 after a battle with stomach cancer and Mrs Olley moved to Elwick a year later.

The daytime 516 Tees Valley service and evening Stagecoach 518 service were stopped at the end of March last year after councillors agreed to axe the £287,000 supported bus services funding in the budget for this year.

Bus companies said the routes were not viable to run, but it left villagers without public transport.

A temporary bus service, with a reduced timetable, was launched in May last year for a three-month trial, but after it stopped residents have been without any service since the end of last July.

Transport chiefs at the council are looking into plans to set up a travel club, which would see residents subscribe to a service using the council’s yellow fleet of buses which are used to transport children to and from school and swimming.

But talks are still at an early stage.

Between May and July the 16-seater bus service operated by East Durham Communicare ran three times a day for three days a week to transport students and elderly residents into Hartlepool.

Residents paid a flat rate cost of £3.

Talks are ongoing with East Durham Communicare to see if a similar service can be reinstated, while talks over the travel club continue.

If so, it could include Elwick, Dalton Piercy and the Ryehill Gardens and Burbank areas of town in order to make it more viable.

But it would need financial support as last time two businessmen from Dalton and Elwick each contributed £1,000 towards the service.