Long-term future of Hartlepool’s dial-a-ride service is uncertain

Sue Little of Paul's Travel, Oxford Road, Hartlepool, with the disabled access bus.
Sue Little of Paul's Travel, Oxford Road, Hartlepool, with the disabled access bus.

The future of a dedicated disabled transport service is uncertain as it marks one year of operation in Hartlepool.

A new Dial-a-Ride minibus capable of carrying all shapes and sizes of wheelchairs was launched by Paul’s Travel last April to help fill a gap in disabled accessible vehicles.

Paul Little

Paul Little

But as it marks its first anniversary, operators are unsure if it can afford to keep running in the long term.

At £10 per ride, the door to door service is proving too expensive for some customers.

But the company says almost all of that covers the cost of drivers’ wages.

The company says it will continue to operate the service for another six months and decide where to go after that.

Paul Little, of Paul’s Travel, said: “At first it was really busy, then all of a sudden it has died a bit of a death.

“The main issue we have had is the price.

“We have to charge an hourly rate which has been a massive hindrance.

“Hartfields and Stichell House use us for hospital and other health appointments.

“When people see the service we provide they are over the moon with what we do.

“Every aspect of health and safety is covered.

“The bus allows us to take any sort of wheelchair.

“We have a lady from Blackpool who wouldn’t be able to see her son if it wasn’t for the service.

“We will see how the next six months go. People do need to use it.”

Regarding the fare prices, he added: “It’s not cheap but the vast majority is going to the driver.”

Around £1 per journey goes to other operating costs of the service.

Paul’s Travel spent £12,000 refurbishing a minibus it bought which has a lift for wheelchairs and scooters.

The company in Oxford Road decided to launch the venture after hearing of cases of problems encountered by disabled people in accessing disabled transport which caused them to miss health appointments.

A study into disabled transport by Hartlepool Borough Council previously found a shortage of wheelchair accessible taxis.

It was said to be due to the prohibitive cost of adapting them.

A shuttle bus service between North Tees and Hartlepool hospitals for the public and staff is also not able to be used by people in wheelchairs.