Pensioners say they have been left housebound after bus service to Portsmouth is axed

FRUSTRATED pensioners who have been left 'housebound' after a local bus service was cut have vowed to keep fighting for its restoration.

Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 3:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:50 pm
Residents protest at the cutting of the X9 bus service. Susan Wood, left, and Carole Oakes at the front Picture Ian Hargreaves (020119-1)

Elderly residents in Purbrook have spoken out against the decision to scrap the X9 First Bus route, claiming it has left them unable to live independently and even prevented them from getting to hospital appointments.

The service, which used to run every 30 minutes from Monday to Saturday, travelled from Hambledon to The Hard in Portsmouth, via Denmead, Waterlooville and Queen Alexandra Hospital, and was cancelled in January 2017.

Now 170 residents have signed a petition urging First to consider a replacement service.

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Residents protest at the cutting of the X9 bus service. Susan Wood, left, and Carole Oakes at the front Picture Ian Hargreaves (020119-1)

Carole Oakes, of Anne Crescent, lives one road away from where the X9 used to stop. The 70-year-old said: 'We need our bus back.

'We are housebound now. When the bus was first scrapped I was still sometimes able to get up Stakes Hill to reach another bus service. But now it's too difficult for me, as it is for the other elderly people who live here.

'If people need to get to the hospital or doctors now they have to order a taxi or hope they can get a lift from someone but that's not always possible.

'There are a lot of people who are very worried, especially in the cold weather, about what to do if they can't get to the hospital.'

She added: 'We've discussed about maybe not having all the buses back, maybe just two or three in the morning and two or three in the afternoon.

'And we wouldn't mind paying a small fare for the journeys.'

Her neighbour, Rose Bradley, 78, agreed. 'There are lots of people who have been affected in my road,' she said.

'Even a taxi to the nearest bus stop costs £3 each way. A lot of people can't afford that.'

But a spokesperson for First Bus commented: 'Two years ago we took the difficult decision to withdraw the X9 service in January 2017 because not enough passengers were using the service for it to cover its cost.

'At the time we notified the local authorities of our decision to withdraw the loss-making service.

'While we appreciate that withdrawal of any service may affect those people that use the service, we hope people appreciate that a bus service must attract passengers in sufficient numbers to cover its cost for it to survive.'

Councillor Rob Humby, head of transport at Hampshire County Council, explained that subsidising the route was not viable. 'This particular decision is a commercial one by First, based on passenger numbers,' he said.

'We have reviewed funding for bus routes which would not run without public subsidy, using information from residents on the most important journeys and well-used routes.

'In this way, we have made sure that every community in Hampshire which currently has a public transport link, retains that link, even if it means some of the services will have to run less frequently.'