A CANCER patient has hit out at plans to take away her ‘lifeline’ bus service.
Communities are hitting out at moves to re-route a popular bus link between Weymouth, Bridport and east Devon.
Changes are being made by First Dorset to its popular X31 service to improve links between Dorchester South and Axminster railway stations, to the detriment of people living in other communities.
Brenda Bugler, from Littlemoor in Weymouth, relies on First’s X31 service so she can attend hospital appointments in Dorchester.
The bus runs from Weymouth via Littlemoor and Preston to Dorchester, including stopping at Dorset County Hospital, before going on to Bridport and Axminster.
Mrs Bugler claims she and other residents will be left ‘stranded’ by a move to no longer run it to Wey-mouth.
From May 24, the bus will only run between Dorchester and Axminster.
For Littlemoor and Preston passengers, this will mean getting a bus into Weymouth, or somewhere along Dorchester Road, to pick up service 10 which runs from King’s Statue to Dorchester.
Widow Mrs Bugler, 64, said she cannot understand why the bus company was pulling service 31 out of Weymouth as she thought it was popular.
She said: “It’s a lifeline for me and at the moment I can pick it up just down the road. I go up to Dorset County Hospital as I am undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
“I’m fretting quite a bit as it is and this is another worry.
“I’m going through so much at the moment and am reliant on the bus for my appointments. It’s not just me; a lot of people round here who are poorly use it to go to the hospital or to go shopping.
“I could understand the reasoning if it wasn’t carrying passengers but there’s always a few on it. We will be left stranded if it goes.”
Littlemoor resident Malcolm Beeson said: “It’s a very poor move and I think a lot of people will miss this bus.”
He added: “Taking this bus away will mean the new shelter they’ve put up near Goulds Garden Centre will be hardly used.”
Summer timetable changes
FIRST Dorset is making changes to its summer timetables starting on Saturday, May 24.
As part of this, the X31 will be changed to improve links between Dorchester South and Axminster stations and will no longer serve Weymouth.
Customers travelling between Weymouth and Dorchester can take service 10 which runs every 15 minutes daytime Monday to Saturday.
Customers can change between X31 and service 10 at the Brewery Square stop. Service 14 will also offer some direct journeys between Weymouth and Dorchester.
General manager for First Dorset Simon Newport said: “The change to Service X31 has been made in order to maintain its viability following the withdrawal of financial support from Dorset County Council three years ago.
“We did make great efforts to increase the number of people travelling and improve the fares, but unfortunately, the section between Weymouth and Dorchester has not been used sufficiently to enable us to continue running this part of the service.”
Petition set up to save service
CHANGES to First’s X31 service on another part of its route in West Dorset has also sparked fury.
Residents told of their concern as fewer buses will be serving Martinstown and Winterbourne Steepleton.
A petition has been launched by villagers to stop what they say will be a ‘catastrophe.’ The changes will see the service reduced from one an hour to twice a day.
Jon Walker, pictured inset, 52, who lives in Martinstown and started the petition, said a reduction in services would be a ‘blow to the communities.’ He added: “It’s an essential service for a rural community and something that should be fought for.”
Villagers have backing from West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin.
First said the main reason for the change is to improve the reliability of the service and match the resources in use against demand. The service fulfils many roles across the length of the route, including school movements and links to Axminster and Dorchester South railway stations. It also provides the local service between Bridport, Lyme Regis and Axminster.
At times the service had failed to fulfil its roles, including missing trains, and so the new timetable was realigned to include a priority in meeting trains in Axminster and Dorchester South stations.
Devastating effect on communities
Axing bus services could have a devastating effect on rural communities, says the Rural Services Network.
A report says bus services have been hit hard by local authority budget savings as a consequence of government funding cuts, and in some areas the cuts have reached critical levels. The Local Government Association says authorities likely to be worst hit include Dorset.
A Save Our Buses campaign, backed by the RSN and other organisations, is calling for an urgent review into funding.
RSN Chairman Cecilia Motley said: “We recognise the need for austerity measures but government cuts are in grave danger of going too far, leaving many rural local authorities with no choice but to reduce funding for bus services. Rather than imposing draconian and short-sighted cuts, the government should be investing in the bus sector for the long term.”