Bus idea on the road to nowhere

PROPOSALS to set up community bus services in Northumberland villages have fallen flat due to a lack of support.

Surveys were organised by parish councillors in Ulgham, Pegswood and Widdrington Station and Stobswood to assess demand for a scheme to replace the axed Arriva 518 service.

Hundreds of residents had protested at the bus company’s decision, which they said would cut off vital links to local health services.

But only a handful returned the surveys saying they would welcome a weekly community transport scheme linking the villages to Morpeth.

Now all three parish councils have had to shelve the plans as without large numbers of passengers they would not be financially feasible.

Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Chairman Joe Sennett said: “We only got 32 responses back from the survey and I believe Pegswood only got about 12 so it is a no go.

“For the amount of people who wanted to use the community bus service it would just not be sustainable at all. The parish could not put that amount of money into a bus service that nobody was going to use.

“We put a leaflet through every door about it, but we only got 32 back. I really thought we would have got a better response.”

Ulgham parish councillor David Woodard said: “We had a slightly better response in Ulgham, but still not enough of one for the parish council to really proceed with the scheme.

“The response was pretty miserable in Widdrington Station and Ulgham couldn’t possibly go it alone because it is quite a small community and we would have to share in some scheme with another parish council.

“It is disappointing. We put a fair deal of effort into trying to overcome the loss of the 518 service that used to run, but it is not to be.”

Pegswood Chairman Peter Stonell said: “As the petition opposing the 518 axing was well supported, it’s a shame that not enough people said they wanted this scheme in place.”

The community bus would have operated through a membership scheme, with passengers also paying a small charge for each journey made.

Estimates suggested the service would have cost around £200 a week to run.