Transport cuts would ‘imprison pensioners in their own homes’

Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader, has said he was under the impression the Portsmouth Dial-A-Ride was not well used
Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader, has said he was under the impression the Portsmouth Dial-A-Ride was not well used

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FEARS have been raised that vulnerable pensioners will become ‘prisoners in their own homes’ if a vital transport service is axed.

The future of Portsmouth’s Dial-a-Ride is under threat after the city council revealed it wants to pull the £117,000 it contributes each year towards running the scheme.

The move is part of the Tory administration’s bid to slice £13.1m from the budget next year due to cuts in government funding.

Tracey Jones, transport schedule organiser for Dial-a-Ride, which is operated by Pete’s Airlink, criticised claims not many use the service as around 1,000 residents a month depend on it.

It comes after Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader, who helped to put together the proposed budget, said he was under the impression it was not well used.

‘If the money is taken away then the service would go,’ Miss Jones said.

‘It would no longer exist and that would be devastating.

‘A lot of people would become prisoners in their own homes.

‘They wouldn’t be able to get out without our service.’

Customers are picked up from their door to where they want to go, with return journeys costing £4 and a single £2.50.

Miss Jones, who has worked at the Dial-a-Ride for 15 years, said: ‘The service can’t afford to run by itself.

‘It would cost the customers far too much money – they wouldn’t be able to afford it.

‘I will fight to the end to keep it going.

‘I want it to keep going, because one day I may end up having to use it.’

Angela Barrie, 66, of Caroline Square, Portsea, is registered blind, has rheumatoid arthritis and depends on Dial-a-Ride.

She said: ‘I rely on it because the drivers come to my door, they hold my arm and when I reach my destination, they take me up the stairs and they wait with me until I say I can manage from there.

‘This is something I would never get from a taxi driver and I would be house-bound if it were not for Dial-a-Ride.

‘It’s a shame the council is even considering this.’

Lib Dem councillor Darren Sanders said it was especially concerning given the number 19 First bus service will stop serving roads north of Tangier Road in Baffins from the end of December, so those who struggle to walk will have no option but to use a taxi.

The council’s budget will be finalised at a meeting on December 9, where the future of the service will be decided.

All changes proposed will be subject to a public consultation.

As reported in The News, the council also hopes to make major transport savings by charging drivers living in resident parking zones up to £45 for their first parking permit, which is currently free.