Easington residents join Bodicote in petitioning against cuts to bus subsidies

Bus protesters gather in Springfield Avenue, Banbury. At the front, from the left, are organisers Teresa Reynolds, Mary Bailey and Roger Reynolds. NNL-161204-150038009
Bus protesters gather in Springfield Avenue, Banbury. At the front, from the left, are organisers Teresa Reynolds, Mary Bailey and Roger Reynolds. NNL-161204-150038009

Elderly residents of an estate where few people drive have mounted a petition against subsidy cuts that mark the end of their bus service.

Householders on Easington estate have been joined by Bodicote protesters in trying to save their public transport lifeline.

Roger Reynolds, of St Anne’s Road, said: “This is an area known to be one for old fogeys. They call it God’s waiting room.

“I have serious health issues. I know I will die long before my wife and I am the only one who drives. We moved here because we would be a short bus ride from the doctor, the hospital and Sainsbury’s. Knowing my wife will have that bus service is very important,” he said.

He said alarm bells have been ringing since Oxfordshire County Council decided to axe bus service subsidies, meaning the end of several bus routes in Banbury - although some serving deprived areas will continue to enjoy regular services.

“If the bus service does end as planned on July 20 our bus passes won’t be worth the plastic they’re printed on. I thought pensioners’ benefits such as bus passes, winter payments and TV licences were protected,” said Mr Reynolds.

He said ending the bus service would set off a chain of events from taxi fares increasing, GPs having to make more home visits, hospital visits missed and less spending in the town centre.

“There will be a downward spiral effect on this estate. People will be effectively housebound,” he said.

Cllr Kieron Mallon, Conservative town, district and county councillor for the estate said: “I am working on behalf of the residents. I believe I am the only councillor to have met personally with Stagecoach since the announcement of bus subsidies being cut.

“I’ve asked Stagecoach to look again at the B1 and B2 (Easington and Bodicote) and merge the routes to run them as a circular route as it used to do.

“I’ve also asked the county council and Stagecoach to look at imaginative ways to see how Section 106 money developers have to put aside for public transport to see if this may help.

“I urge people to lobby Stagecoach if they feel the same way.”

Cllr Sean Woodcock, leader of the Labour group on Cherwell District Council, said: “The Tories are frequently coming out with the line from Westminster that they are protecting pensioners.

“But the reality is that their cuts to local authorities – and through them bus subsidies – are actually isolating them.

“These are people who have worked hard all their lives, paid into the pot with their taxes and are rewarded for this by finding that government abandons them. It’s a disgrace frankly.”

The residents’ petition contains some 300 signatures.