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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Campaign launched to save Cockermouth bus services

A campaign has been launched to save vital bus services in Cockermouth amid fears people on estates could be left isolated.

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Pledge: Eric Nicholson said waiting in the rain was out

Eric Nicholson, the town’s county councillor, said county council plans to withdraw subsidies to routes to save money was unjust.

One of the services at risk is the 101 from Main Street to Rose Lane. Nearly 8,000 people use the service a year at a cost of £26,326 – or £3.29 per passenger.

The county council last week agreed to remove all bus subsidies it pays across the county by March 2015.

Mr Nicholson plans to meet with the council’s transport team to find solutions and minimise the impact of the funding cuts.

Mr Nicholson, whose Conservative opposition group opposed the cuts, said: “There are bus services receiving very little subsidy because they are well used and important to people. It would be unjust for anybody to take the subsidy away from those.

“There needs to be a level of subsidy for services that are needed. The 101 service is an important service to the town. I have seen it going out of Main Street full.

“There’s a large elderly population and all the estates are on hills. It’s important to maintain a service from the estates particularly to Main Street and the hospital.”

Juliette Marshall, 88, of Briar Bank, uses the service every day to travel into town.

She said: “I rely on using the bus and if it was cut I would have to rely on neighbours to give me a lift. There are a lot of elderly people up here so we definitely need the service.”

Other bus services set to lose their subsidy include the 33 Cockermouth to Workington service, which services Broughton, the 600 service between Cockermouth and Carlisle in the evenings, the 73 Caldbeck-Carlisle/Keswick on Saturdays, the X5 Workington-Penrith in the evenings and the 554 Carlisle-Keswick service.

David Wilson, 67, of Towers Lane, who uses the bus daily, said: “Last year I had both hips replaced so I couldn’t drive or walk for four to five months so I had to rely on the bus. I know people in their 80s and 90s who absolutely rely on the service.”

Keith Little, county council member for transport, said: “I’m sure all county councillors would love to be in a position to say ‘we won’t make the cuts’ – but we just can’t do that.

“What we can do is buy ourselves a little more time to explore all alternatives and hopefully come up with some innovative solutions by working with local partners and I think we have done this.

“These are difficult decisions to make and working with local councillors in each area will be one of the ways we work with communities to achieve this.”

Council leader Stewart Young said the council would work with private companies and parish councils to find alternative solutions.

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