A partially-sighted pensioner has spoken of his relief after two councils stepped in to provide an alternative to an axed bus service which had threatened to drive him out of his home.
As the local democracy reporting service revealed last month, 80-year-old veteran Terry Collins feared he may have to move out of his flat in Astley Village after travel firm Stagecoach scrapped the 109A route which provided a link between the area and Chorley town centre.
The decision was set to leave Astley without any daytime bus service from 22nd July.
But now Lancashire County Council and Chorley Council have agreed to subsidise a replacement by re-routing an existing Stagecoach service.
“It’s really good news – not just for elderly people like me, but all those who rely on the bus around here,” said Terry, who is blind in one eye and has limited sight in the other.
“I saw two young mums with kids on the bus yesterday – they couldn’t have walked to town in the rain.
“And in the sheltered accommodation where I live, there are people who go into town a few times a week to get essentials – but also just to get out and about.”
The 357 service will be split into two new routes – the 118 and 119, with the latter passing through Astley Village on an hourly basis, as the 109A does currently. However, the new timetable will mean areas including Lower Burgh and Gillibrands Park will be served only every other hour.
County Cllr Aidy Riggott, who represents Euxton, Buckshaw and Astley on the authority, asked locals to make use of a service which they were so close to losing.
“Local authorities can only consider subsidising services if they are used – otherwise, it’s difficult to justify it,” County Cllr Riggott said.
“I’d also ask residents to provide us with feedback on whether the new services are working for them. We want to ensure a stable service, so that people can commit to jobs and school places knowing that there is a bus service for them in the long term.
“I’m grateful that the county council has increased the level of public transport subsidy available, because it is a challenge to provide help like this.”
The new routes will not take in the parts of Buckshaw Village which are currently served by the 109A – but Buckshaw is on the route of the 109 service, which is set to continue.
Lancashire County Council will subsidise 75 percent of the cost of the new services, with Chorley Council funding the remainder during the week – with the split being reversed at the weekend. It is part of a package of revisions to joint subsidies agreed by the two authorities on other routes.
Cllr Laura Lennox, who represents Astley and Buckshaw on Chorley Council, welcomed a last-minute revision to the plan to ensure that the new 119 serves Southport Road and Devonshire Road, which house several GP surgeries on which the residents of Astley rely.
“I do feel sorry for the people of that part of Buckshaw which is losing access to its service – they do have an alternative, but only after a long walk,” Cllr Lennox said.
Andrew Snowden, lead member for transport on Lancashire County Council, said he was “delighted” that the new route had been agreed.
Chorley council leader Alistair Bradley said he had been disappointed by the decision to scrap the 109A.
“As we have in other areas, we’ve stepped in, alongside the county council, to make sure the residents in Astley Village can still access Chorley and other parts of the borough by bus.
“Not everyone has access to a car so it’s really important we do all we can to keep all our villages linked by public transport so people can get to work, get to school and attend appointments,” Cllr Bradley added.
The new 119 service is to be run by Tyrers during the day and Stagecoach during evenings and Sundays.