VILLAGE residents left stranded by budget cuts have been given a welcome boost after a new trial bus service was launched.
People living in Elwick and Dalton Piercy, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, had been left isolated after their daytime and evening services were scrapped at the end of March.
But a new 16-seater bus service operated by East Durham Communicare will run three times a day for three days a week to transport students and elderly residents into Hartlepool.
The service, which launched this week, will run on a trial basis for the next three months at a flat rate cost of £3.
On a Monday and Friday the bus leaves Elwick Green at 8.15am, 9.30am and 1pm, while on a Tuesday it leaves at 8.15am, 10.30am and 1pm before heading into Dalton Piercy and into Hartlepool.
It drops students off at colleges in town, before heading into the town centre so residents can go to shops and banks.
The bus also stops at the One Life Centre Hartlepool, in Park Road, and supermarkets including Asda and Morrisons.
Independent councillor Hilary Thompson, who represents the Elwick ward, said: “There is a perception that the villages are pretty affluent, but we have many elderly people, some in sheltered housing, and we have no local services.
“Village life loses its charm when you have no public transport to get you to the chemists, the doctors or other appointments.
“We have had no bus service now for six weeks.
“Our elderly villagers have been left isolated, and I know of one student who has had to give up a part-time job.
“This is not right and could not go on.
“I have managed to set up a replacement service to address this urgent need.
“This could not have happened without the generous one-off donations of £1,000 each from two local businessmen in Dalton and Elwick to help get the service off the ground and keep the cost down. “Unfortunately, concessionary passes cannot be used, but I’m looking into this.
“It is a three-month trial which will tide us over for the time being.”
Alan Jarvis, a supervisor driver with Communicare, said: “I came into this profession to get elderly and disabled people out of their homes.
“I am delighted that we are able to help.”
Coun Thompson added that she will continue to work with council officers to see if they can find the £15,000 from the previous subsidy grant needed to reinstate the 516 Tees Valley daytime service three days a week.
The 516 Tees Valley service and night time Stagecoach 518 service were stopped 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.
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