Campaigners say countless people will suffer if plans to axe bus routes in the area go ahead due to budget cuts.
Key bus routes in the Grantham area and other parts of the county could face the axe after Lincolnshire County Council revealed it will be forced to cut funding for some services.
The local authority needs to save £170 million over the next four years, and its leader, Councillor Martin Hill, has admitted some bus services will stop running, but has told the Journal that nobody will be left “stranded” as a result of the cuts.
A total of 169 routes across the county receive a subsidy from the council, including 21 ‘CallConnect’ services which are fully funded by the authority.
Buses campaigner Coun Lynda Coutts, who represents Grantham Barrowby Gate on South Kesteven District Council, said cuts will inevitably affect the elderly and disabled among other users, and has called on the council to reconsider any cuts to bus services.
She added: “There are so many older people in Grantham who rely on the buses to get in and out of town. More and more houses are being built here which will mean more cars. None of us are getting any younger so we need to keep the buses running – they should be putting more buses on.”
Coun Coutts went on to say: “We are supposed to be a major county town, but they [local authorities] are making it very difficult for many people to get here.
“And they are complaining that shops are closing. Well, if people can’t get here they will close.”
Coun Coutts said commuters should be prevented from getting free parking on London Road and other streets near the railway station. She suggested parking meters should be implemented and the money generated put into public transport.
Coun Hill said that while cuts will have to be made, people will not be left stranded in rural areas. He said the CallConnect service will not be affected by cuts and all well-used services will remain.
But Coun Hill added: “There will be some impact on bus routes which are subsidised. But 75 per cent of bus services will not be affected because they do not receive subsidies. It is the lesser used routes which we will be reviewing.
“But this will not become a situation where people will be left stranded. It’s not all doom and gloom as some poeple are making out. If you live on a well-used bus route you can be sure it will carry on. We will do what we can to mitigate the circumstances.”
Labour councillors have launched a campaign against the potential cuts, and a petition has been set up. The online version has almost 3,000 signatures.
But the council’s executive member for highways and transportation, Richard Davies, said: “In light of severe reductions to our government funding, we have to drastically reduce the amount of money we spend on all of our council services.”
Another campaigner David Rimmington has set up a petition which has attracted 4,000 signatures and was presented to county councillors yesterday (Thursday). It will be formally presented to the council at its budget meeting on February 19.
In the Grantham area, the council-subsidised bus routes are: Woolsthorpe - Grantham, Pointon/Billingbrough - Sleaford, Osbournby - Grantham, Dry Doddington - Welbourn, Grantham - Stamford, Sleaford-Ancaster-North Rauceby, Swinstead - Grantham, Newark - Grantham Schs, Grantham-Bottesford, Lincoln-Grantham, Sleaford-Billingborough, Aslackby-Grantham, Billingborough-Rippingale, Grantham - Newark, Grantham - South Witham, Sleaford - Grantham, Grantham - Barrowby Gate, Grantham-Stamford.