Fears the elderly could be stranded have been raised after a vital bus service for four villages was significantly reduced.
Financial pressures have forced Delaine Buses to scale back the 205 service which runs from Peterborough to Stamford through Castor, Ailsworth, Wittering and Wansford.
The reduced service from January 5 will see all Saturday buses removed, and weekday buses reduced to approximately every two hours.
The cutback comes at the same time as Conservative-run Peterborough City Council has agreed to take out £150,000 from its £715,000 subsidy for “commercially unviable” bus routes.
The affected routes have yet to be decided, but potential changes could impact the 5, 60, 61, 62 and 63 services.
Peterborough is currently aiming to become the UK’s Environment Capital.
The Peterborough Telegraph spoke to the chairs of Wittering, Castor and Ailsworth parish councils who confirmed the 205 is the only bus service which passes through their villages.
Wansford Parish Council has yet to respond.
There is currently no Sunday service on the 205. Under the changes there will now be no buses on Saturdays, while the route will only be served by five buses on weekdays.
Wittering chair Dick Roffe said: “There are a lot of older people that need to get to hospital or a doctor’s surgery.
“A taxi into Peterborough is £15 - how can an old person afford that? It also affects people going to work or school.
“It’s a big village and we are totally cut off. It’s ridiculous in this day and age. They subsidise buses in Peterborough but what’s wrong with the people in the sticks?”
Castor chair Neil Boyce said the four parish councils were meeting with Delaine in January to discuss the situation. He added: “Clearly a private enterprise cannot run at a loss. We want to work with them to make it economical.
“It’s a valuable service for us. I do not understand why the city council does subsidise some routes and not some rural routes. It’s okay doing all the roads as you do need a good road structure, but a lot of people are reliant on public transport.”
Joan Pickett, chair of Ailsworth Parish Council, said: “It’s disappointing to lose Saturday as well as Sunday, although I can see they can’t run at a loss.
“It does mean people in the village will become very isolated. The largest proportion of people who use the bus are older people. They do not have any other transport.”
Delaine took over the 205 in October, becoming its third operator in the last seven years. Managing director Anthony Delaine-Smith claimed low passenger numbers meant the company is not covering its costs from running the service.
He said: “We are the first operator to implement a sustainable timetable going forward. Based on current patronage we have devised a one bus operation timetable that still maintains a peak-time service for commuters and students into the city of Peterborough, and a bi-hourly off-peak shopping facility to both Peterborough and Stamford on weekdays.”
He added that people need to “use it or lose it!”
The council said it will consider subsidising the 205 when it reviews bus services in the new year.
A spokesman added: “At a time when council funding has been significantly reduced, we have to consider making difficult decisions in order to protect frontline services. Despite this, we have invested substantially in sustainable transport in recent years, including improvements to the city’s cycle networks, and remain fully committed to considering the environmental impact of everything we do.”
eterborough City Council’s cuts for subsidised bus routes were agreed by the Conservatives as part of the authority’s budget setting process to trim the £14.5 million deficit by nearly £11.5 million.
The huge financial pressure is due to a £45 million reduction in the council’s government grant and millions of pounds of rising pressures. More budget proposals will be revealed in the new year.
Speaking at Full Council on Wednesday evening last week, Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford said it was clear “the cabinet members who propose these cuts which we are now being asked this evening to approve had no information on individual journeys from which to make their conclusions”.
Cllr Sandford called for a delay in cutting the subsidy until there was more information on passenger numbers. Cllr Ed Murphy (Labour and Co-operative) said people are “scared they are about to lose more buses. They are concerned that they’re not working very well at the moment”.
Cabinet member Cllr David Seaton said: “Councillors who have spoken might be happy to waste taxpayers’ money on empty buses, but I am not.” The budget was approved by 29 votes to 20, with three abstentions.