St Neots Area Bus Users Group to launch
ANGRY St Neots residents are fighting back at cuts in public transport which they say have left many of them isolated.
Former town councillor, Julia Hayward, is leading the charge by launching a pressure group which she hopes will help restore bus services in the town.
The 45-year-old, of Collingwood Road, Eaton Socon, says she set up the St Neots Area Bus Users Society (SNABUS) as a direct response to the recent cutbacks in the town which have, among other changes, seen stops on the 65/66 service through Eaton Socon scrapped since June 10.
The former chairman of St Neots Liberal Democrats told The Hunts Post: “I’ve been monitoring the situation for some time but the spur to do something came when my family became directly affected.
“The bus which my children used to get to school no longer stopped at Eaton Socon Green, and being a one-car-family it has made life more difficult.”
Ms Hayward was also approached by members of Queen’s Court, Eaton Socon, many of whom live in sheltered accommodation and have mobility problems.
“A number of residents of Queens Court now don’t have a service at all from their stop near the George and Dragon pub on the Great North Road,” she added.
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“There is a large group of bungalows there and many of the residents are too frail to walk up to the top of the hill to the stop at Queen’s Gardens, so they are effectively cut off from town.”
Residents of Queens Court affected by the change to the service welcomed the move.
Spokesman Joanna Wells, 69, explained: “I have signed up to SNABUS and will be attending the meeting later this month.
“Many people in Queens Court find it difficult to walk any distance at all – some have pace-makers, others have severe mobility problems.
“The bus service that stopped here was a lifeline and now they’re in a situation where they’re becoming isolated.”
The idea to set up the Bus Users Society was inspired by BABUS, a user group started in Bedford in 2005, and it joins a growing number of similar organisations around the UK.
Ms Hayward continued: “Our first goal is to provide a real voice for bus passengers and pull together all interested parties.
“Other groups around the country have been successful in resolving various issues and we are hopeful local operators and councillors will come on board.
“Our ultimate aim is to get services restored in a sustainable way so that vulnerable people in St Neots aren’t left isolated.”
The official launch of St Neots Bus Users Society takes place at the end of the July and representatives from Stagecoach and Whippet as well as town councillors and members of the public have been invited.
Queens Court resident, Betty Woodall, 86, said: “I need a bus.
“Elderly people could get to the stop outside the George and Dragon – now they have to struggle up the hill to the next stop and just can’t manage it.
“They’re having to get taxis into town which they just can’t afford.”
Peter Lee, director of Swavesey-based Whippet Coaches, told The Hunts Post he would be happy to attend the meeting.
“We are always happy to listen to what people have to say and try as far as possible to meet expectation,” he said.
“We a running a service and I feel we do have a responsibility to provide a service for the community and to help people who are most vulnerable or disadvantaged.”
Andy Campbell, Stagecoach East managing director said: “I am definitely interested in what the group has to say, and if we can work together to improve the service and increase the number of people who use the service then we are prepared to do that, provided expectation is realistic.”
INFORMATION: The inaugural meeting of the St Neots Bus Users Society takes place at the Priory Centre on Saturday, July 28 at 10.45am. For details visit www.snabus.org.uk