Pensioners want better bus services

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PENSIONERS have demanded better bus services, complaining cuts to transport subsidies have left them stranded in their homes.

Southend and District Pensioners' Campaign held a special meeting to question Anna Waite, Southend councillor responsible for transport and planning, about the need for more buses.

They complained buses to Hamlet Court Road's shopping area now only ran on a Sunday, buses between Belfairs and Leigh Broadway would only run on Tuesdays from next week, and services to Southend Hospital were limited.

Howard Marks, 69, of St George's Park Avenue, Westcliff, said: "Southend Area Bus Users' Group have been in quite considerable contact with your department over a long period of time, since April 2005.

"Because the council refused to put a single penny into bus subsidies, we've lost a large number of our bus routes, leaving many people stranded."

Mrs Waite said the council had cut the bus subsidies because they were unfair to council taxpayers, who had been financing up to £6 per passenger for little-used routes.

She said: "We cut the subsidies and the bus companies cut the service. They didn't have to - they could have continued it - but they chose to cut services.

"In many cases, they cut the whole service because only one leg of the service was profitable."

Iris Balson, 75, of Gainsborough Drive, Westcliff, said she believed the council should take more control over local buses.

She said: "Like a lot of people, I can remember before the buses were privatised. When shareholders profits are more important than passengers, it never will work."

Mrs Waite said it was out of the council's hands, as it had been a national Government decision to privatise buses.

However, she agreed to look into the possibility of taxi tokens for pensioners who were unable to use the bus service.

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