No buses, so '˜abandoned' pensioner thumbs a lift

A pensioner has resorted to hitch-hiking because of cuts to bus services in his village.

Monday, 10th October 2016, 9:50 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:24 pm
Hitch hiker: Duncan Foster thumbs a lift from the bus stop

Duncan Foster, 66, claims villagers have been ‘totally abandoned’ by cuts to services.

Now he dons a reflective vest with the words ‘Lift Please - No Buses’ in an effort to get passing motorists to get him out and about

Duncan, from Whittington, Lancaster, relies on public transport to get about and says savage cuts to rural bus services are affecting his quality of life. He said: “The people who use the bus are completely dependant on it.

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“Life used to be pretty good, but now people must just be stopping indoors. In my opinion, we’ve been totally abandoned.”

Lancashire County Council pulled the plug on subsidies paid to bus companies in April, saving taxpayers a total of £7.5m a year. When the idea was first mooted, concern was raised that those living in rural areas would become completely isolated.

Jim Davies, chairman of the Lancaster Bus Users’ Group said funding needed to be restored as soon as possible to undo the harm the cuts have already caused.

He said: “The reduction in funding for buses has led to many service cuts that have had a serious effect on people’s lives. Some rural communities have been left without any service whatsoever and even in the urban areas many people now have no evening or Sunday buses. Many who previously relied on these buses have been left with severely restricted mobility, unable to visit friends and relatives or participate in the social life of the district, whilst some have even been unable to reach places of employment.

“We understand the county council is responding to cuts in its own grant from central government and we call on politicians at local and national level to restore funding for buses as soon as possible to undo the harm that has been done.”

County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said parish councils in the county were discussing options for additional bus services with bus companies. He said: “Most areas have continued to receive a local bus service, albeit at different times, since the changes in April. We regularly liaise with the Lancaster Bus Users’ Group and have a good working relationship with them.

“Parish councils are interested in considering different options for additional bus services in their area and are discussing these directly with the local bus companies. Our officers facilitate and provide advice at these meetings.

“Parishes and community groups also have the option to have a vehicle supplied to them, by the county council, to run their own local services.”