Villagers in Peterborough have been left “upset” at the loss of their only bus service.
The 205 run by Delaine Buses - which operates through the villages of Wittering, Wansford Castor and Ailsworth - comes to an end on Friday, December 20 with the bus company stating that it is suffering from “heavy operating losses” on the route due to a shortage of passengers.
The service had already been scaled back from January with no weekend buses and only a two hour service on weekdays because of the financial burden on Delaine.
Peterborough City Council has stepped in by offering a Call Connect minibus service which will operate one peak time service both in the morning and afternoon from Thursday, January 2.
But other than that residents living in the villages who do not have a car will have to contact Call Connect at least an hour in advance to book a minibus.
Chair of Ailsworth Parish Council Joan Pickett said: “Residents have been concerned and upset to hear that they are to lose the Delaine 205 bus service.
“We do understand that it is not very profitable for the bus company but for many of those that use it, it is their only way to town on a regular basis.
“We have no Post Office or banking facility in the village, and as many of the passengers are elderly neither are they likely to use online banking or shopping.
“Some use the bus to get to town to get further transport to visit relatives in homes, catch a train, go to work and many other reasons.
“The Call Connect service will help but it needs to be booked in advance (it’s not always easy to predict when you need to go) so a more regular service would be welcomed.
“The bus service company might be wise to consider alternative routes, for example to go direct to the hospital now it is out of town and to Sainsbury’s to attract more customers.”
The new Call Connect service will go from Wittering into Peterborough from 7.35am - calling in at Wansford, Ailsworth and Castor - then back again at 5.45pm.
However, the minibus will only stop in Castor and Ailsworth by request only.
The city council said it could not subsidise a full bus timetable as it is currently seeking to make £33 million of savings to balance its budget following large cuts to its main government grant.
Cllr Peter Hiller, cabinet member for strategic planning, commercial strategy and investment, and ward councillor for Castor, said: “In an ideal world the city council would like to swoop in and offer to pay the difference to keep the bus service running as normal, but unfortunately councils do not have this kind of disposable income anymore.
“The fact is that this service has been underused for years. A single decker bus currently travels between Stamford and Peterborough every two hours during the day with only a handful of people onboard. This just isn’t sustainable in anyone’s world – and it doesn’t fit in the Climate Emergency we declared earlier this year and our pledge as a council to become carbon neutral by 2030.
“Thanks to Call Connect we now have a 14 seater minibus to serve this area, which is much more suitable for the passenger numbers required. Yes, the service from some areas won’t be automatic and you will need to pre-book, but it will still run and offer a flexible demand responsive service.”
Residents will be able to pre-book a minibus up to one hour in advance by calling Call Connect on 0345 263 8153.
Further information can be found online at www.lincsbus.info/callconnect/ or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delaine said: “We regret to announce the withdrawal of our 205 Stamford-Wittering-Peterborough service - the last day of operation will be Friday, December 20.
“When we took the route over on a commercial basis in October 2018 following the withdrawal of the previous operator, we anticipated the route would need to be rationalised as they were the second operator to withdraw from the route in seven years.
“A rationalised service deploying one bus was introduced in January 2019 and was initially sustainable, but over recent months the level of patronage has been in continual decline. It is clear there is not enough support to maintain the current level of service and we cannot continue to absorb the heavy operating losses being incurred.
“Delaine 201 202 is available as an alternative service for travel between Stamford and Peterborough.
“A replacement Call Connect service is being introduced by Peterborough City Council to maintain a service from the intermediate villages with a fixed timetable at peak time between Wittering and Peterborough and a demand responsive service at other times.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have supported the 205 during the last 14 months, if more had done so this outcome would not have arisen.”
Call Connect timetable
Monday to Friday, from January 2
Service Number 48
Wittering, Post Office, adj 0735
Wittering, Spar Shop, opp 0738
Wansford, Old North Rd, adj 0745B
Ailsworth, Bus Shelter, adj 0751B
Castor, Splash Lane, opp 0753B
Longthorpe, Fox and Hounds, nr 0800
Peterborough, Queensgate Bus Station, Bay 9 0810.
Peterborough, Queensgate Bus Station, Bay 9 1745
Longthorpe, Fox and Hounds, opp 1755
Castor, Splash Lane, adj 1802s
Ailsworth, Bus Shelter, opp 1804s
Wansford, Old North Rd, opp 1811s
Wittering, Spar Shop, opp 1817
Wittering, Post Office, adj 1820.