5:31pm Wednesday 20th February 2013
By Mark Tallentire
ELDERLY bus passengers are hoping their “pensioner power” will see them reverse an unpopular route change which they say has left them isolated and unable to use the service.
Go North East’s 20X, or Prince Bishops, service between Durham and Sunderland previously served the top end of West Rainton by stopping on Old Durham Road, which runs parallel to the A690.
In October 2011 the route moved to the bottom end of the village, leaving two stops on Old Durham Road redundant.
Many pensioners live in the area and they are calling for the change to be reversed.
Elsie Kemp, 76, of Woodland View, uses a wheelchair. Her husband John, 75, said: “I’ve got to push her half a mile to the bus stop.
“Why can’t they just put one service through the top of the village?”
Elsie Morley, 88, of Burns Close, previously caught the bus to Durham two or three times a week. Now she has to pay £9 each way for a taxi.
“If you get off in the village it’s a long walk home. I don’t like to walk too far,” she said.
The pensioners’ case has been taken up by Stephen Guy, a Labour candidate for the Sherburn ward, which includes West Rainton, in May’s Durham County Council elections.
He said: “We want a bit of flexibility from Go North East to ensure that people who are in their older years are not socially excluded.”
Martin Harris, commercial director of Go North East, said the 20X service which previously served the area was a limited, peak time only service and there were only three boardings per day in West Rainton.
“This is a very low number of passengers by anyone’s standards, clearly indicating that there are not enough passengers to sustain a bus service from this area even with public subsidy, let alone on a commercial risk basis,” he added.
The majority of residents remain within 400m of a bus stop, the national benchmark for accessibility, Mr Harris continued, and during a service review last August, no evidence was found of a need for a stop on Old Durham Road.
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