Rural bus service takes its last fare as passengers worry they're being left behind
A bus service connecting rural residents of a borough has completed its final journey after more than 10 years of service.
The Wrekin Rider, a council bus service providing transport links to residents of rural areas near Telford, has reached the end of the line after more than a decade.
From Monday, a new rural bus service will provide northern villages of Telford & Wrekin such as Wrockwardine, Rodington, Roden, High Ercall, Ellerdine and Tibberton with links to Wellington and Newport.
Telford & Wrekin Council is hoping the new service will provide a "lifeline" to rural communities.
But some residents of the borough's small villages fear the change - which the council hopes will address rural isolation - has left them isolated.
Barry Brown, 74, who lives in Wellington but knows villagers who have used the Wrekin Rider, says the passengers were receiving a "raw deal".
Mr Brown said: "Preston upon the Weald Moors, Kynnersley and Cherrington are all losing a bus service they've had for over a decade.
"We were told there would be meetings but there haven't been any meetings. We were never told what the routes were, we found out about it when we read it in the paper."
But Telford & Wrekin Council says there will be more bus routes with more frequent stops in rural areas than ever before, and insists the new routes were created with help from residents who completed a survey in June 2022.
While it couldn't comment on projected usage, the council said it was confident the new service would be better used than the limited, once-a-week service provided by the Wrekin Rider.
Councillor Richard Overton, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, enforcement, and transport, said: “We are proud to be on your side providing more services in rural areas than ever before which have been introduced and funded by Telford & Wrekin Council and restore vital links for communities.
“We know there are still a few pockets where people cannot access the services, but extra steps have been taken to cater for these people including a door-to-door option and a dial-a-ride service for people with mobility issues."
But Mr Brown said many residents using the service didn't qualify for dial-a-ride, because they weren't registered disabled, and they did not qualify for the door-to-door service because they lived less than three miles from a bus stop - the distance required to receive the service.
He said: "Even if they do qualify for dial-a-ride because of mobility issues, it costs £2 each way. Twice a week that's £8. That's £400 a year for a service they've been getting for free all this time.
"They call it an improvement plan, but where's the improvement?"
Mr Overton said the council will continue to work with residents to develop the service, and said they were "happy to listen and adapt the schedules wherever we can."
Telford & Wrekin Council has invited residents to ride the new service for free on February 27 and 28. The transport team will also be available from 2pm at the Newport bus interchange.
The new routes, and timetables are available to view online at telford.gov.uk/busservices.