Isolation threat as city bus link loses its subsidy

Wooler bus shelter after.
Wooler bus shelter after.

People in the Wooler area face increasing isolation as their direct Saturday bus link with Newcastle comes under threat, say parish councillors.

The twice-weekly 710 service from Kelso to Newcastle, run by Wooler company Glen Valley Tours, is to lose its Northumberland County Council subsidy, which applies only on a Saturday.

But local townspeople and villagers are preparing to campaign to save the bus.

Wooler Parish Council chairman Coun Alfreda Hindmarsh predicted uproar in the community.

Monday’s meeting received a letter from the county council’s community transport manager Jan Chisholm saying the subsidy would be withdrawn at Easter. She said the service did not meet the requirements for aid as it was ‘primarily used for non-essential shopping trips’.

Her suggestion was that it could continue as an excursion bus for passengers paying full fare. At present, it is £8 return from Wooler.

Coun Hindmarsh said: “Elderly people use it as a chance to go to Newcastle and visit friends or go to hospital. You can’t get to Newcastle otherwise.”

According to Coun Joyce Robertson: “They think that because we’re so far north they will tell us anything and we’ll just follow and do it, and it’s not fair.”

Coun Rosanna Reed said: “I feel to us living in the country it’s an essential service. We get a bus twice a week – not twice a day – twice a week.”

Glen Valley Coaches boss Eric Laidler told the Gazette it was a small subsidy, but valuable in keeping the service going. “Sometimes you don’t even get enough to pay the fuel and the driver,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s the only way people can actually get out – not everyone has got a car and not everyone wants to take their car to Newcastle.

“A lot of them visit people in hospital or do business, getting parts for computers and that sort of thing. It’s not all shopping, but on the other hand I don’t see why you can’t use a bus service because you are going to go shopping.”