A BUS operator that provided a lifeline to passengers left stranded after services were axed is warning customers to “use it or lose it” after a drop in numbers.
Paul’s Travel launched the number 65 service two years ago after Elwick and Dalton Piercy, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, were hardest hit when bus companies axed their daytime and evening services.
It was as a result of Hartlepool Borough Council removing its £287,000 supported bus services funding in 2011.
But after a positive start, Paul’s Travel says the services are in danger and it has already decided to stop its Saturday service, which people asked for, after less than six months.
Sue Little, who runs the business with husband Paul, says passenger take-up has not been high enough to keep the weekend service, which launched in July, on the road.
And she is warning its daytime services are also under threat after a big drop in passenger numbers.
Sue said about the Saturday service: “I’m devastated because people wanted it. People are upset but they need to realise I need passengers.”
The final Saturday service will run on November 29.
The number 65 also runs three times a day on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays between the Elwick and Dalton Piercy and Hartlepool town centre.
Rural West councillors Ray Martin-Wells, Brenda Loynes and George Morris each donated £1,000 from their ward budgets to Elwick Parish Council, which is helping to fund the service.
Elwick and Dalton Piercy Parish Councils and Hartfields also help to sponsor the service, which costs £24,000 to £27,000 a year to run.
Paul’s Travel charges adult fares and claims back concessionary passes.
Sue added: “We ran a pilot scheme and had loads of passengers and thought it was going to work. This financial year I’ve taken just £3 in adult paying fares.
“I also introduced free travel for under-16s but that hasn’t taken off either.
“We used to get nearly 90 passengers a day. Now it is 40 to 60 a day.
“We don’t get enough money to cover the costs – 99 per cent of fares are concessionary.
“The service is vital to the people who use it but it has always been use it or lose it.
“I don’t want to make loads of money, all I want is for people to use it.”