Pensioners say new bus service leaves them high and dry

Pensioner George Anderson and fellow residents of South Moltons Mill on the Mole residential park ar

Pensioner George Anderson and fellow residents of South Moltons Mill on the Mole residential park are angry about the changes being introduced to their bus service. - Credit: Archant

Enhancements to 155 service fail to put gloss on X7 withdrawal.

PENSIONERS living on a South Molton park home estate are pleading with bus operators to revisit timetable changes that they say will leave them ‘stranded’ at key times of the day.

Around 40 senior citizens at the Mill on the Mole residential park on the outskirts of the town turned out to speak to the Gazette to voice their concerns about the cancellation of the Stagecoach X7 service to Barnstaple.

The service was withdrawn today (Monday) and residents say that an ‘enhanced’ 155 service will actually penalise pensioners, who are unable to use their bus passes until 9.30am.

Resident George Anderson, 68, said: “When I moved to the area five years ago there used to be a regular bus every half hour, then it went to nearly every hour. Now it is going to be a very disjointed service.

“They are cutting the number of buses from 15 a day to 9 a day, with most of those cuts being in the morning.

“Also, the new timetable gives us a bus at 9.26am, four minutes before we can legally use our bus pass, and then the next bus is nearly one-and-a half-hours later at 10.51am.

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“Because of the infrequency of the new service at Mill on the Mole, it is going to make it difficult for hospital, doctor or dentist appointments.”

Many of the residents say they are unable to walk up the steep hill to South Molton and will have to rely on taxis instead.

Fellow resident Rod Joyce asked Devon County Council if drivers could be given permission to accept bus passes on the 9.26am service, although the council has already indicated it would be unable to make an exception due to similar cases in the county.

A spokesperson said the withdrawal of the service was a commercial decision made by Stagecoach and not determined by the county council.

A Stagecoach spokesperson said the withdrawal of the X7 was as a result of insufficient passenger numbers to support the costs of operation.

“We have closely monitored this service since we started operating it in September 2012 but, unfortunately, overall revenue has been lower than hoped.

“However, we wanted to make sure residents in the area still had a regular service between South Molton and Barnstaple which is why we have added additional journeys to our 155 service.

“Unfortunately, when we introduce any changes to our services, it is likely that a small number of our customers will be unhappy with what has been put in place but, in order to secure the overall viability and future of the network, we have to make some tough commercial decisions.”

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