Axed bus service leaves estate shoppers stranded

MORPETH shoppers have been cut off after the removal of a bus service.

Operator Arriva North East has taken off the X18 service between Ashington and Newcastle due to rising fuel costs and low usage.

Alternative services are provided to cover much of the route, but passengers now have no buses on a section between Stakeford and Morpeth.

And the problem is causing a transport headache for residents of the Wansbeck Estate in Stakeford, who are used to travelling to Morpeth for their shopping.

Passenger Anne Middlemiss, of Hillcrest Avenue, said: “Just before Christmas there was a rumour that they were going to take the bus off, then just after the New Year it happened.

“They just took it off with no consultation and they haven’t asked passengers anything about it.

“There is a bus from Guide Post to Morpeth and that is fair enough if you can walk, but from the bus stop in Stakeford up to Guide Post it is a mile. People now have a mile to walk if they want to go to Morpeth, which is no good if you have shopping to carry, or you can’t walk very far.

“They have made Morpeth more attractive for people to go to and it is fair enough if you have a car, but if not you are stuck.

“Everyone is up in arms about it.

“I used to come to Morpeth three times a week and my bank is in Morpeth. I can’t understand why they can’t divert one of the other buses to the estate so we can get there.”

The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has also raised concerns about the removal of the hourly service.

Chairman John Beynon said: “We have written to Arriva expressing our concerns because we have been approached by a number of elderly people asking if we can help them with this.

“There are other routes to cover most of the lost service, but there is nothing between Stakeford and Morpeth so we still have concerns.”

At a meeting of the chamber on Monday members agreed to feed comments about the service into consultation about Northumberland’s Public Transport Strategy.

Managing Director for Arriva North East Nigel Featham said: “Service X18 had ceased to be commercially viable due to low passenger numbers, increased fuel prices and a cut in fuel duty rebate and was therefore withdrawn on January 2.

“On a more positive note, most sections of the route are still covered by alternative services.

“Between Guide Post and Morpeth passengers can catch the 2/2a and between Ashington and Morpeth they can catch the 35. Both services operate every 20 minutes.

“There is only a small section of route at Stakeford which would see passengers need to make a bus change in order to reach their destination.”