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Buses shake up fears for South Lakeland residents
SOUTH Lakeland villages could be left isolated after a bus company was shunned in a contract shake-up, it is claimed.
Stagecoach has lost six south Cumbrian contracts, including all Kendal town routes, in new arrangements to start in September.
Companies including Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire, KT’s Coaches and Wigton-based Reays Coaches will take them on.
But after losing business in the retendering process, there are fears Stagecoach could shelve loss-making routes it agreed to continue last year after a campaign to save them.
The company would not confirm which routes but a spokesman said services which run at a ‘commercial risk’ were being evaluated.
It is understood that the 552 service from Arnside to Kendal through Natland, Hincaster and Sedgwick is one of them.
Hincaster pensioner Ann Dent, 75, said the bus was ‘essential’ for elderly residents and those without cars.
“We would be absolutely stranded,” said Mrs Dent, who uses the bus to go to the doctors. “We have always had a bus here – even throughout the war – it makes a big difference to our lives.”
Margaret Powell, 77, of Sedgwick, added: “It’s the only way I can get to the shops in Kendal. It takes a good part of your pension just to get from A to B – what’s the point in having a bus pass if you can’t use it?”
Natland Parish Council chairman David Peters said losing the bus would have a ‘serious effect’ on the village.
He added: “The uncertainty isn’t good for people wanting to use the bus system.”
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron wants an urgent meeting with Cumbria County Council, which awards the contracts.
He said Stagecoach showed ‘goodwill’ by continuing loss-making routes axed by the council, adding: “They’re losing a few routes in this and that is potentially going to test their willingness to support other routes.”
Stagecoach has lost the X35 Barrow-Kendal service; all Kendal town services; the 106 Penrith-Kendal; the 505 winter Kendal to Coniston service; and one of two 567 Kendal-Kirkby Lonsdale routes.
A Cumbria County Council spokesman said the retendering, expected to save around £875,000 in 2012/13, had seen ‘unprecedented interest’, with 93 submissions.
Coun Tim Knowles, cabinet member for transport, said: “While it may not be good news for companies who have traditionally enjoyed market dominance, it is good news for small Cumbrian bus operators breaking through into new markets and good news for the local economy.”