‘Lifeline’ bus for disabled to be scrapped

The PlusBus service will stop in June

A free bus service described as a “lifeline” for elderly and disabled people will be cancelled within the next three months. The PlusBus, which takes residents from their doors to local shops, health clinics and community centres, will be decommissioned in June as part of the £52m cut to the council budget.

The service, which is run by social enterprise Hackney Community Transport, carries almost 30,000 elderly and disabled people a year.

80-year-old Irene Pledger from Barnsbury uses the PlusBus to visit the Peel Institute community centre in King’s Cross three times a week.

“There is no regular bus stop at the centre and getting here without the PlusBus would mean a lot of walking, which I find difficult,” said Ms Pledger.  “What will happen if this service goes is people just won’t come out. They will be forced to stay in their homes instead of socialising, playing bingo or going out for their shopping.”

“I won’t be able to come and meet my friends.”

The council was told last week by Transport for London (TfL) that it had been refused a £210,000 TfL discretionary fund to subsidise the bus route.

The council has blamed Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, calling his decision to refuse the additional funding “callous” and “disgraceful”.

Paul Smith, the council’s executive member for the environment, said he wrote to Mr Johnson in December to ask him to save the service.

Mr Smith said the mayor’s refusal to allocate funds to pay for the buses showed a “complete disregard for the needs of elderly citizens”.

“For lots of people who use the bus, it is a lifeline,” he said. “The mayor has gone out of his way to hit these people very hard. He doesn’t realise their lives literally depend on having this service.

“He said he doesn’t believe the PlusBus for elderly people is a priority and he wants to spend more on road projects.

“But I think this is a clear, political decision.

“Like all the cuts, it will be hardest on those in society who are the most vulnerable. It is a disgrace.”

A spokeswoman for TfL said the service “was not considered to represent value for money” anymore.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the provision of the Route 815 PlusBus is not and never was the responsibility of the Mayor of London.

However, residents such as Ms Pledger place the blame firmly at City Hall. “I thought Boris Johnson was meant to be for the people, but he is apparently not for the older people,” she said.

“He should come down here, meet us all and listen to how important this service really is to people like us.”