Pensioners fear loss of their lifeline bus

Olwyn Alder along with other local residents in Castletown with their petition against the planned bus service closure.
Olwyn Alder along with other local residents in Castletown with their petition against the planned bus service closure.
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WORRIED pensioners say they stand to lose their lifeline bus service as part of shake-ups by a transport firm.

Passengers in Castletown fear Go North East is planning to take away the number 26 “Black Cats” service which links them to health services, the supermarket and the Metro system.

The bus company has stressed there is no definite plan for changes and urged residents to take part in a consultation to make their voices heard.

But pensioners are up in arms and more than 200 people have already signed a petition.

Irene Tynemouth, 87, from Castletown, said: “It’s a disgrace. We had a better bus service than this in 1948. Things are going backwards.”

Castletown Community Centre treasurer Jean Baster, 67, said older people used the service to get to the Bunny Hill Centre and the medical centre in Southwick, as well as connecting with the Metro at Heworth.

“They go to the Bunny Hill Centre to see the doctor and to use the library. There are a lot of things up there,” she said.

“It’s the young ones as well. They need the bus to go over to the cinema in Boldon and the other things there.”

Mrs Baster said passengers had been given leaflets listing proposed changes and asking for feedback.

She said one option is to keep the 26 and take it on to Gateshead and Newcastle, using a bigger bus, which residents would be happy with.

Another is to send the bus round a different route, which will miss out Castletown. She claimed this was the bus company’s preferred option.

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But Martin Harris, commercial director at Go North East, said the company was looking at how best to improve services for passengers in North Sunderland and was open to all ideas.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a stronger series of links for people,” he said.

Mr Harris said none of the proposals that had been put out to consultation would definitely happen, and another idea based on passenger suggestions could be used instead.

“We really do want to listen to people’s views and concerns,” he said. “The difficult thing for bus services is one person’s improvement is another person’s less-welcome change.”

Mrs Baster said Castletown already fared badly when it came to bus services.

She said the 26 is one of only two buses left in the village. The other is the 36, which goes into the city centre and also stops at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Mrs Baster said the 36 bus was like “going to Blackpool” as it toured all the housing estates in north Sunderland.

Susan McCallum, 60, a retired carer from Town End Farm, said people in her community would also be affected by the changes.

Castletown councillors Doris McKnight and Denny Wilson have taken up the residents’ cudgel and contacted Tyne and Wear transport executive Nexus.

A Nexus spokesman said: “Go North East has told us it is considering changes to some of its services in Boldon and north Sunderland, but until a final proposal is set out we will not know what, if any, impact there will be on local bus passengers.”

•Anyone without a leaflet who wants to take part in the bus consultation should visit

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