A new lifeline dial-a-ride bus service has been launched in Hartlepool to help address the town’s shortage of disabled transport.
Transport firm Paul’s Travel started the new service this week after investing £12,000 in a new wheelchair accessible minibus.
It comes about a decade since the town’s last dial-a-ride service was axed.
The move has been backed by Hartlepool councillor Stephen Thomas, who has called for improvements to disabled transport.
Sue Little, of Paul’s Travel, said she was moved to start the new service after hearing at council meetings about the problems disabled people face getting out and about.
She said: “It was hearing stories like people being made to leave health appointments before they had seen a consultant that they have waited a long time for.
Nobody needs to be isolated, not in this day and ageSue Little
“There are people who are thinking about giving up their mobility. I thought I’m in transport, why not try to do something.
“Nobody needs to be isolated, not in this day and age.”
A study by Hartlepool Borough Council found a shortage of wheelchair accessible taxis due to the prohibitive cost of adapting them, and the shuttle service between North Tees and Hartlepool hospitals is not able to be used by people in wheelchairs.
The new service has an electric lift and can take all kinds of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Users need to be registered and the bus will ferry passengers, of all ages, to wherever they want to go.
Sue added: “We would take you to relations, a venue, to town shopping, or to health appointments.
“The reason we have called it a dial-a-ride service is because everybody knows what that is.”
Users will have to pay per journey, but Sue said they will try to keep fares as low as possible. She is also applying for funding.
Councillor Thomas, chairman of the council’s Adult Services Committee, welcomed the new service.
He said: “I really do welcome what Paul’s Travel are doing. I think it’s a fantastic initiative and very much needed.
“As a local authority we are still concerned about the transport problems that people with disabilities have and continue to look at other alternatives as well.
“Up and down the country we are hearing similar stories. This leads to people becoming very isolated. We try to do everything we can to support disabled people.”