County to pick up stranded bus passengers

New services aim to plug gaps caused by Stagecoach withdrawals

County Hall has stepped in to rescue bus travellers in Stewartby and Lidlington whose services are to be slashed.

Stagecoach is still axing almost all its buses between the two villages and Bedford from the end of the month, claiming they do not make enough money.

But with some angry residents complaining the cuts would leave them marooned, transport chiefs at County Hall are laying on a daytime service supported by public money.

Timetable and operator details are still being finalised but it seems the ten-times-a-day commercial Stagecoach service will be replaced by a five-times-a-day subsidised run from Mondays to Saturdays.

Evening and Sunday services are already subsidised and are not affected by the reductions.

Trudy Simmans, 48, of Alexander Close, Stewartby, welcomed the move.

She said: "It's brilliant news. If the buses had gone it would have been disastrous, particularly for the pensioners who need to get to Bedford and haven't got a car."

Borough councillor for Stewartby John Tait added: "We have achieved something in a short space of time with the cooperation of the county council.

"Stagecoach said people could use trains instead, but they don't stop in Kempston where a lot of the doctors' surgeries are which the pensioners need.

"What was most disappointing was the lack of consultation from Stagecoach."

County council transport boss Coun Richard Payne said Stagecoach had made a "business decision" to chop the Stewartby and Lidlington services.

He said: "Although the county council faces many budget pressures, a bus service is required to meet the needs of these communities and we will find the funds to support it. A demand-responsive transport service may be the best solution in the future."

There was also good news for bus users in Roxton and Wyboston, who face the ending of the number 14 route.

Stagecoach East managing director Inglis Lyon has now agreed the express X5 service will pick up in both villages instead.

MP for North-East Beds Alistair Burt said: "This is not a reinstatement of the lost service in its entirety but it is a real help for these villages, and I appreciate Mr Lyon's rapid response.

"Community representatives moved very swiftly on behalf of residents, and all pulled together. I am glad we achieved this result.

"It does not solve the problems of rural public transport though, and I will continue to press for a better strategic solution to be found in the longer term to the issue of our disappearing services."