BINGO players who have lost their much-loved hall have been offered a cheap and easy bus service to take them to a nearby rival.

Gala Bingo, in Broadway, Pitsea, was due to hold its final night last night, forcing regulars to go elsewhere.

The closure of the Pitsea hall, one of five Gala sites to go across the country, has been blamed on tax hikes, the smoking ban, and poor profits.

When the Echo first reported the story, regular customers, many of whom have played there for decades, complained there would be nothing for pensioners to do in Pitsea.

There were also concerns the nearest alternative bingo hall, in Southernhay, Basildon, was too large and not suitable for the close-knit community of Pitsea players.

Now, however, a bingo club in Canvey, could be offering the solution.

Rio Bingo, in Furtherwick Road, has hired local independent minibus firm, Simon’s Bus, to offer enthusiasts who have trouble getting around, a cheap and easy bus service to its venue.

Rio Bingo’s manager Ann Tabony, 61, said she feared without their weekly bingo trip, many elderly people in Pitsea would be lonely.

She said: “It’s devastating news whenever a bingo hall closes, no matter which club you belong to. It’s a part of the community lost.

“We don’t want them sitting at home alone, which could happen.

“We hope some of the Pitsea players will come here because we’re a small club, we have a more personal feel, like the Gala at Pitsea.

“We want to bring them in and make them feel part of our bingo community.”

The hall is subsidising a twice-weekly bus service to take customers from Pitsea to Canvey and back for just £1 each way, picking up players from outside the old Gala hall in Pitsea on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The route will be running on a trial basis for four weeks from tomorrow and will become permanent if there is enough demand.

Manager of Simon’s Bus, Helen Holder said: “Initially Rio will provide a bus on two nights, on Thursday and Sunday for the next four weeks.

“We will see what the response is and look to provide further transport if the demand is there.”