Pensioners 'lonely' and 'stuck' as half of local bus routes axed since 2010

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Pat Young feels isolated as the bus routes have been cancelled so she can
Pat Young feels isolated as the bus routes have been cancelled so she can't see her friends (Image: Glen Minikin)

Pensioners say they’ve been left feeling “fed up” and “lonely” by the cuts to public transport as new figures reveal half of local bus routes have been axed since 2010.

Since the Tories came to power, many small towns no longer have adequate public transport and residents are forced to use cars – if they can.

Pat Young, who turns 80 next week, used to travel to Pontefract and Selby three times a week to meet her friends from her 25 years at a sweet factory. But the great-gran who lives in Askern, on the outskirts of Doncaster, has been grounded since last January.

Locals say the area used to have three bus services passing through but now they have just one, Arriva. Now Pat can no longer travel directly to the historic Yorkshire market towns of Pontefract and Sebly for a natter with lifelong friends and spends much more time at home.

Pensioners have been left stuck and entire communities are stranded as half of local bus routes, with people struggling to go shopping or getting to GP appointments. Figures show there has been a dramatic fall in the number of services operating across England since the Tories came to power. Many small towns are now “transport deserts” with inadequate public transport options for residents to be able to travel conveniently without driving.

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Official data from the Traffic Commissioners shows there were a total of 17,394 registered bus routes in 2010. But this has plummeted with just 8,781 now remaining. Some 2,160 services were lost in just the last year alone. The West Midlands has been the hardest hit region, with the number of registered routes falling from 2,221 to 702 since 2010, a drop of more than two thirds.

Pensioners 'lonely' and 'stuck' as half of local bus routes axed since 2010Neighbours Pat Young and Sheila Holmes feel isolated (Glen Minikin)

The number of services has fallen by 52% in the North West, 50% in the North East, 45% in the East, 43% in the West and 29% in the South East. Some of the decline in registrations may have been due to services merging or routes being altered.

“I get fed up easier now. It’s lonely because I’m on my own,” pensioner Pat told The Mirror. “There’s only so much housework you want to do but I try to read and I have the television. We couldn’t believe it when they stopped them.

“I used to meet up with my friends from work three times a week, on a Monday, Wednesday and Thursday but now I only get to see them every other week. There’s only one of us who drives, so she picks several up and they come to mine for sandwiches, one of them will bring cakes.

“So now I’m stuck in here,” she says of the bungalow she used to share with her late husband who died more than 17 years ago and did all the driving. “Since then I’ve got the bus and it’s the worse I’ve ever known it.” She says she is one of the lucky ones because she has two gorgeous daughters who take her out at the weekend as they work during the week. But she says a lot of her other friends are feeling totally isolated.

Pensioners 'lonely' and 'stuck' as half of local bus routes axed since 2010Pat now can't see her friends as the bus routes are so bad (Glen Minikin)

“We all had such a lovely time when we went to Ponte (Pontefract). We’d go to the Salvation Army for the cheapest cup of tea, then we’d get a bit of shopping done and go to Wetherspoons for a bit of dinner.” Pat is also upset for her friends in nearby estates and villages too as cut routes mean they have a much longer walk to the bus stop. “Mr Sunak needs to sort these buses out for us. They think everyone’s got a car!’ she said.

She also wants bus companies to think about the elderly when they plan their stops as many no longer have anywhere to sit as they wait. Sheila Holmes, 83, a former nurse who has 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, said: “It’s sad they’ve stopped the service to Pontefract and Selby. A lot of my friends are lonely and loved going there shopping. They’ve been really upset by the bus cuts. I love the buses you get to see all the places.”

Supermarket worker, Laura Cosgrove, 38, who works in Heron in Askern, said she’s had elderly customers crying over the buses. She said: “We used to have three bus services coming through.” But she said they now no longer travel near the estates where the elderly live. “I work in Heron and some ladies have to walk down (to the supermarket). They are 80 years old and used to get the bus. Sometimes they come into work really distressed, it’s heartbreaking. They used to like coming down here to the lake on the bus.”

Laura is also upset because her daughter Chanice Cosgrove, 18, who she says is her “best friend’, is having to move away to Mablethorpe because the lack of routes is limiting her job opportunities. “On Sundays we don’t go anywhere because the buses are every two hours,” she added.

Last week the South Yorkshire mayor pointed out that people can no longer rely on the buses to get to work. Oliver Coppard said the bus network is “broken” adding: “We used to have a world-class public transport system here in South Yorkshire, but now we can’t rely on our buses, even to do the bare minimum: to get to work, to hospital or college, or to see friends and family.”

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Pensioners 'lonely' and 'stuck' as half of local bus routes axed since 2010Jade Walker is regularly late for work as the bus routes are so bad from her village of Askern near Doncaster (Glen Minikin)
Pensioners 'lonely' and 'stuck' as half of local bus routes axed since 2010She said buses are 'a nightmare' (Glen Minikin)

Jade Walker, 22, from Askern, totally agrees and told us: “Buses are a nightmare and are never on time. They take so long to get anywhere and they cancel a lot.” The shop worker commutes to Doncaster, which takes 15 minutes in the car, but says it takes her an hour on the bus.

“Sometimes they are cancelled, sometimes late by ten to 15 minutes which makes a difference. It’s very stressful. People have to get to work and we are relying on the buses. I’ve been told off for being late about five times because of the buses. It definitely needs sorting out. Buses being late have repercussions - not every job will be so understanding.”

Geraldine Whittles, 64, said: “Our bus service is really bad.” She is also upset at the axed service to Pontefract and Selby. “It’s absolutely disgusting. A lot of the older people used to use that. It’s a nightmare for them. My friend used to go to Selby market every Monday but can’t now. It really affects the elderly this.”

Lucy Thornton

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