Hartlepool bus service at risk after funding cuts

BUS SERVICE: Sue Little (left) with councillors (left to right) Ray Martin-Wells, Brenda Loynes and George Morris at the launch of the service in 2012
BUS SERVICE: Sue Little (left) with councillors (left to right) Ray Martin-Wells, Brenda Loynes and George Morris at the launch of the service in 2012

A BUS operator says she will fight to keep providing the service to rural areas of Hartlepool after a cut in funding.

Paul’s Travel, run buses between Elwick, Dalton Piercy and Hartlepool.

But pick ups in Elwick are at risk of being axed after Elwick Parish Council told the company it would not be renewing their contract.

Sue Little, who runs Paul’s Travel with her husband Paul, says she will appeal to big businesses in Hartlepool to try to find replacement funding.

She has also arranged a meeting in Hartlepool Central Library on February 18 to update users.

In a letter to Sue, Elwick Parish Council clerk Minna West explained: “It was with some regret that councillors took this decision, but the position is such that without the financial contributions of ward councillors and Dalton parish council, which we are advised are to be withdrawn, or at least substantially reduced, Elwick Parish Council can no longer sustain the service.”

The letter added the council has some major maintenance works to pay for and it cannot justify supporting a bus service which only a small number of people use.

Paul’s Travel launched the number 65 service in Elwick and Dalton Piercy in 2012 after a successful three-month pilot scheme.

It was after the two villages were hardest hit when bus companies axed daytime and evening services due to Hartlepool Borough Council removing its £287,000 supported bus services cash.

As well as receiving funding from the area’s councillors from their ward budgets and Elwick and Dalton Piercy parish councils, Paul’s Travel charges for fares and claim back concessionary passes through a Government scheme.

Sue admits the service is currently running at a loss of just under £4,000 for the year.

But she said: “I have never done it for my own monetary gain.

“I do it for the people of Elwick and Dalton Piercy and all the people who use this service.

“Most of them are pensioners who spend money in the town centre.

“I think they are more desperate for the service now than three years ago when we started.

“These people have paid into the system all their lives.

“I am writing to the 15 ward councillors of the five wards we go through to see if they can help with their ward budgets.

“I’m also going to write to all the major businesses in town to try to keep the service going.

“I want to keep the route exactly the same as it is now.”

The meeting at the library on Wednesday, February 18, starts at 2.30pm.

Alastair Smith, the council’s Assistant Director for Neighbourhoods, has also been invited.