A disgruntled OAP is being forced to hitch hike to his local town from his isolated village home after transport chiefs cut back its bus service.
Duncan Foster, 66, dons a reflective vest with the words ‘lift please – no buses” – after he and other villagers were ‘totally abandoned’ by the cuts.
Mr Foster says both his and his fellow villagers at Whittington, near Lancaster, are suffering after bus service sto nearby Kirby Lonsdale were drastically reduced.
Despite the journey to Kirby being just two miles, the route takes 45 minutes to walk along an isolated B Road with no footpath, no lighting and blind corners.
Before the end of last year, Whittington had 111 buses pass through its small village every week which have been reduced to just five per week on weekdays only.
Mr Foster, who is highlighting the plight of everyone in his village with his protest, said: “The people who use the bus are completely dependent on it.
“Life used to be pretty good – but now people must just be stopping indoors.”
He added: “In my opinion we’ve been totally abandoned.”
Mr Foster explained that his village has been hit by two quick timetable reductions – one in December 2015 following floods which damaged a connecting bridge and a second timetable change in April 2016.
“There are a lot of people in the village that have no access to any form of transport that have been left isolated and abandoned.
“A lot of people are worse off than me but I’m hitch-hiking to protest for everyone who’s found themselves without access to public transport.”
The retired pensioner said: “I’ll be honest, I mainly use the buses for social purposes and there are people who can’t get to hospital appointments and more important occasions but we all feel like we’ve been left to fend for ourselves.”
Lancashire County Council pulled the plug on subsidies paid to bus companies in April – aiming to save taxpayers a total of £7.5m a year.
When the idea was first mooted concern was raised that those living in rural areas would become completely isolated.
Jim Davies, chairman of the Lancaster Bus Users’ Group, said: “The reduction in funding for buses has led to many service cuts that have had a serious effect on people’s lives.
“Some rural communities have been left without any service whatsoever and even in the urban areas many people now have no evening or Sunday buses.
“Many who previously relied on these buses have been left with severely restricted mobility, unable to visit friends and relatives or participate in the social life of the district, whilst some have even been unable to reach places of employment.
“We understand the county council is responding to cuts in its own grant from central government and we call on politicians at local and national level to restore funding for buses as soon as possible to undo the harm that has been done.”
County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said parish councils in the county were discussing options for additional bus services with bus companies.
Cllr Fillis said: “Most areas have continued to receive a local bus service, albeit at different times, since the changes in April.
“We regularly liaise with the Lancaster Bus Users’ Group and have a good working relationship with them.
“Parish councils are interested in considering different options for additional bus services in their area and are discussing these directly with the local bus companies. Our officers facilitate and provide advice at these meetings.
“Parishes and community groups also have the option to have a vehicle supplied to them, by the county council, to run their own local services.”
Fortunately for Mr Foster, he is often successful in his hitch-hiking attempts.
He said: “I have been quite lucky because I know a lot of people in the area – I’ve had it were I’ve stepped straight out of the door and got a lift.
“But we all feel totally cut off.
“Everybody who lives in Whittington is obliged to have a car and it all comes from Government cuts that have filtered down to the local council.”