‘The bus is our lifeline’ – villagers fear being shut off as vital service axed
- Credit: AMY CHRISTIE
Villagers are voicing their concern after proposals were revealed to axe a vital bus service.
The plans by bus company Chambers means the 84 bus route, which transports passengers between Sudbury, Leavenheath, Nayland and Colchester, will only run at school times.
From Monday, March 23, a new additional service, the 784, will operate at limited times during the day between Colchester and Sudbury and will not run through Nayland village to Stoke by Nayland, instead stopping on the A134.
Chambers has launched a public consultation about the proposals and a number of villagers have expressed their concerns regarding the plans.
What do residents think?
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Mother Amy Christie, who suffers from epilepsy and doesn't drive, says she is worried that she will become "stuck" at her home in Nayland.
"I'm going to be really lonely," said the school dinner lady, who is a mother to 11-year-old Archie. "I don't want to be a burden on my family having to ask for lifts constantly."
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Amy, 32, continued: "I rely on the buses so its going to be really hard for me to get to places on Saturdays and school holidays to entertain my son - I'm even considering moving house."
The single parent is also concerned about plans to stop the 784 bus on the A134, which she says has become an accident "hot-spot".
Daphne Berry, 85, has similar concerns and worries that she will "become isolated and lose her independence".
She also thinks the decision will "lead to loneliness, depression and mental health issues for elderly people", putting pressure on the already over-stretched services.
'The bus is their lifeline'
Daphne has lived in Nayland since 1966 and says the decision has "horrified" her.
She said: "I've lived here more than 56 years so I think I've earnt my place and the right to have public transport."
Daphne uses the bus frequently to attend a singing group in the local community, but also for necessities such as her food shop, doctors appointments and to visit her bank.
She says she is "very worried" about the impact this will have on her, especially with no family around to help her out.
Sue Bartlett, whose 82-year-old parents both live in Nayland, says she fears her parents will be "cut off" if the controversial plans go ahead.
The married couple don't have a computer, no longer drive, and can hardly walk down to the bus station as it is.
"The bus is their lifeline," admitted Sue.
'We should be encouraging more people to leave their cars at home'
Meanwhile, Mary George, the chairman of Nayland with Wissington Parish Council, worries that the plans to stop the 784 on the main road through Leavenheath is a "serious safety concern".
"It will also mean that elderly people, those with limited mobility or non-drivers, will have to walk up to a mile to and from any new bus stop," said Ms George.
"At a time when we should be encouraging more people to leave their cars at home, and when more and more amenities in rural villages are closing down, this is a huge concern."
'The length of consultation is far too short', warns MP
James Cartlidge, the MP for South Suffolk, said he has a number of "frustrated constituents" who will be directly affected.
He said: "Naturally I was very disappointed to hear of Chambers' plans for the 84 bus as this is an important route which serves a number of villages whose residents have no other bus available.
"Of course, I do understand the commercial challenges a private operator faces but I also think that the length of consultation - barely a week - is far too short when you consider the impact this decision could have on local communities, who should at least be able to respond on a reasonable timescale."
Residents have until Monday, January 27 to raise their views on the proposal.
What does bus company Chambers say?
In response to the concerns raised, Jeremy Cooper, managing director of Chambers buses, said: "Chambers buses fully recognises the value in local bus routes providing access to essential services and social contact for those in rural areas. Last year we were pleased to be able to step in and operate a route which was at risk of being lost to the community.
"To run a sustainable business in Sudbury we need to be able to cover our costs, and we have had to make some difficult decisions. Whilst valued by its users, the number of people using route 84 is very small, and the revenue we receive is considerably less than the cost of running the service, and consequently we are unable to continue it.
"We will continue to provide a fast service 784 along the A134 which we believe will serve the needs of many of those who used the 84."
If you wish to comment/share your views on the proposed timetable changes, you should email email@example.com or you can write to Chambers, Unit 6/7 Stephenson Road, Clacton on Sea, Essex, CO15 4XA.