Residents will be ‘cut off’ as First withdraw services

REDUCED SERVICE First will remove services 5A and 21
REDUCED SERVICE First will remove services 5A and 21
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RESIDENTS of two villages face being cut off as bus services are under threat.

First has announced its intention to stop the 5A and 21 services, forcing Hampshire County Council to step in and put the services out to emergency tender.

The 5A and the 21 serve Hill Head and Stubbington, and will stop on January 15 unless another company steps in and offers to run them.

First has said they are no longer commercially viable and will not continue to run them as by law it is not allowed to make a loss on any of its routes.

The council has offered to subsidise the services, meaning that a new bus company will need to be found to operate them. The council will make an announcement this week, if it finds one.

Executive member for transport at the county council Cllr Sean Woodward said: ‘The services have been put out for tender for seven days.

‘I should have an answer back this week as to which company will run the subsidised service.

‘It will run a service to cover the peak times.

‘First is cancelling all the services to Hill Head and we are stepping in to try and ensure some sort of service. If we didn’t, the whole community would be cut off.’

Hill Head ward councillor Cllr Arthur Mandry said: ‘Lots of people in this area rely on buses. They don’t drive or own a car.

‘It is quite frightening. If this service is stopped then we will have a number of people who will be virtually marooned in the place where they live.’

The news is equally worrying for residents of Stubbington, who also learnt recently that the village supermarket, Budgens, will be closing this month.

Stubbington ward councillor Jim Forrest said: ‘The residents of Stubbington are losing their supermarket and are going to have reduced access to Fareham.

‘For a lot of the older people, it will be very isolating. It is quite a drastic change for what has, until now, been a thriving community.’

Cllr Woodward said that he was confident a company would come forward now the county council has secured funding, but that it would mean a reduced service.

This latest news follows the county council’s approval of bus services last Monday, which due to a cut back in funding, saw the number 11 drop to a two-hourly service.