Contact the Bridport News with your stories, pictures and video footage. Send us an email
Bus pass changes will be a 'real loss' to Lyme Regis pensioners
1:01pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 in Lyme Regis
REMOVAL of early morning concessionary bus travel in West Dorset will be a ‘real loss’ to pensioners in rural areas.
Concerns have been raised over district council proposals not to fund free travel for journeys that start in West Dorset before 9.30am.
West Dorset District Council said withdrawing the privilege would bring the scheme in line with national arrangements so that pass holders would only have free off-peak travel.
The council’s director of corporate services Adrian Stuart said in his report: “There appears to be a generally held view that if the council does not fund the journey the individual will fund it themselves, or possibly use a later service or another means of transport.”
Mr Stuart said funding early morning bus travel costs the district council around £46,000 a year.
Lyme Regis pensioner John Hounsell, of Haye Close, said the service is ‘desperately needed’ and cuts should be targeted at non-residents.
He said: “I can appreciate that, in these difficult economic times, some financial savings have to be made.
“However, cuts should be targeted at non-residents – not at people who live here and desperately need the service.
“West Country residents are subsidising the visiting holidaymakers who don’t pay local taxes but who enjoy the local benefits.”
The council consulted with town and parish councils, transport and older peoples groups, and the West Dorset Partnership.
The main concern among them was that passengers need transport for early morning medical appointments.
To minimise the impact of removing pre-9.30am travel, the council is proposing to make £10,000 available to support access to community transport focused on medical care.
Lyme Regis Town Councillor Mark Gage said: “This will affect some of the most hard pressed members of our society and prevent some elderly people from attending early morning medical appointments.”
Coun Gage asked Lyme’s district councillor Daryl Turner how he would be voting.
Coun Turner said: “In conjunction with Dorset County Hospital, people from rural areas will be allowed to change their appointments. £10,000 has been put aside to help people in rural areas with hospital travel.
“As far as I’m concerned, I would vote for that.”
Coun Gage said: “The bottom line is that these people who wish to travel before 9.30am won’t be able to.
“How that £10,000 spread across the entirety of West Dorset is going to make up for that loss, I don’t know.
“We also have an awful lot of people who use Exeter Hospital.
“This will be a real loss to these people. I don’t see how the things the council has put in place is going to help these people.”
The district council is expected to approve the proposal at its meeting on February 24 and the changes would take effect from April 1.