September 19 2014 Latest news:
By Catherine Morris-Gretton
Thursday, August 21, 2014
A community bus service that provides a lifeline for elderly people in and around Fakenham is set to close next month after 30 years – because of a lack of funding.
Age Concern Fakenham decided to end the minibus service, which every month carries about 175 people aged over 55 on regular journeys including shopping trips and doctors appointments, at a committee meeting on Monday night.
Volunteer driver Keith Tomlin, of Bintree, said he thought it was “terrible” that such an important service should disappear.
“It’s going to damage a lot of people’s lives,” he said.
“Get on my bus on a Monday morning and it’s like a social club. They are all reminiscing and enjoying themselves. It’s not just a physical loss but a mental loss as well.”
Mr Tomlin said he thought the committee had “run out of ideas” on how to get money to keep the buses operating and blamed local businesses for not contributing.
“I feel the business owners and the factory owners in Fakenham ought to be ashamed,” he said. “If they had paid £5 a week to the charity, the service would still run.” But Margo Taviner, from Age Concern Fakenham, said the organisation had been looking at ways to save the daily service for more than six months, including appealing for help from local firms.
She said falling passenger numbers and a lack of funding meant the committee was left with no choice but to close the service down.
“The buses are so old and one has to come off the road because it won’t pass its MOT,” said Mrs Taviner.
“The amount of passengers now doesn’t warrant getting another bus. We need 12 people on each bus to make it work, but even shopping trips in town only get eight passengers.”
Free bus passes and people continuing to drive into old age had also affected the service, according to Mrs Taviner.
The minibus service will run until September 23 and Mr Tomlin makes his last trip out on Tuesday.
“They are putting notices up on the buses and have asked me to tell the passengers then,” he said.
“It’s going to be a loss to that community.”
Mrs Taviner, whose husband Dom has repaired the buses free of charge since the scheme started, said it was very sad news.
“I know all the passengers personally, I have been doing it for years,” she said.
“But it’s got to go and that’s it.”
Will you be affected by the end of the Age Concern Fakenham bus service? What do you think of the decision? Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Community Editor, Dereham and Fakenham Times, Bond House, 31 High Street, Dereham, NR19 1DZ, remembering to include your name and address.