Anger after hours cut for Southend's dial-a-ride

7:00am Friday 20th September 2013

By Michelle Archard

AN under-threat transport service which provides vital help for disabled passengers is set to continue, but at reduced hours.

Southend Council’s cabinet has agreedto keeprunning Dial-a-Ride, which is used by elderly and disabled people for trips to GPs and hospital appointments, as well as social events, from Southend to Hadleigh.

But the changes and restrictions to the service used by 400 members, who pay a membership fee and makeadonation for trips, which works out cheaper than a taxi ride, have been slammed by Dial-a-Ride user Bert Goodbourn.

The agreed hours will be 9.15am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday, within South-end boundaries, with a few exceptions like Morrisons and Salvation Army Rare Breeds Farm, in Hadleigh. It was previously running from 8am until 5.30pm. The Saturday morning service, between 8am until 1pm, will also be scrapped.

Mr Goodbourn, who runs the Village organisation for disabled people, said: “This is too restrictive.

I go to a painting class in Hadleigh which starts at 9am and now I’ll have to pack it in, as Dial-a-Ride won’t pick me up until 9.15am.

“I can’t afford a cab as it’ll be £30 for a return journey. This will affect so many people. They use it for medical appointments, clubs, classes and shopping.”

The service was previously run by Access Anyone and faced funding difficulties and a cut in hours earlier this year. It was saved when an agreement was reached with the council to run it.

Martin Terry, the independent group leader and a member of the working party that reviewed the service, said: “A lot of elderly people who use the service don’t live near a bus stop, or can’t walk to their nearest one and can’t afford a taxi. They are the people we need to think about.”

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