More than 300 campaigners have signed a petition to save a popular bus service from the axe.
The 171 Pickering Town and 170 Littledale Circular service, operated by Hayesway Travel, is one of several routes under threat as North Yorkshire County Council looks to find savings ahead of further Government cuts to its budget next year.
While the bus runs at near capacity six days a week, many of the passengers are pensioners of disabled and have concessionary tickets allowing them to travel free.
But they are so determined to help keep the service that they are offering to pay a fare towards the running cost and have so far collected more than 300 signatures to back their plea.
Doug Hewish, one of the leaders of the campaign, said: “It is a very well-used service. It serves a lot of old people and those with wheelchairs and buggies - it’s a real life line for most of them. Without the bus service many wouldn’t be leaving their homes because they could not afford taxis.”
Many of the passengers go to the town’s medical centre, said Mr Hewish, but without a bus would have to ask the doctors to make home calls.
“And if the passengers aren’t travelling to the town, business in the shops will go down too,” he added.
“The service is important to so many people. It improves their quality of life, and it’s a great community asset because everyone knows each other and the drivers are wonderful, often dropping people outside their homes and helping them with their shopping. It’s like having a private taxi service.”
Well-known supporter of older and disabled people in Pickering, Daphne Bowes, who runs old people’s clubs and a luncheon club, is arranging a day-time public meeting at Pickering Memorial Hall to raise awareness of the campaign, and Pickering Town Council is to discuss the issue at its meeting later this month.
Pickering Cllr Stephen Jenson said: “It is a much valued asset in Pickering. So many people would become isolated if there is no bus service.”
The County Council is currently carrying out a county-wide consultation on its plan to cut £1.1 million from its bus subsidies as part of a multi-million pound cut in its budget.
County Cllr John Clark, Pickering’s representative at County Hall, said: “Losing the service would be a massive blow to the people of Pickering. But this is being forced on the county council by the Government which I believe is trampling on the elderly and vulnerable people who can’t stand up for themselves.”
The same bus runs two routes - the 170 Littledale Circular and 171 Town Circular - on Mondays to Saturdays, departing and arriving from outside Pickering Library and making stops at key streets around the town to best serve its users.
It is estimated that 3,500 passengers use the bus every month, the majority of whom are concessionary card holders.
Hayesway Travel made the investment in a new bus, also employing a driver, after winning a four year contract to run the service from the county council.
But Doug Hayes, the company owner, says it is now likely the contract will be cancelled next year - after only one year - leaving him out of pocket.
“We are upset because of the time and effort we have put into making the service a success,” he said. “The service is under threat but we are looking to see if it is possible for the legislation to allow us to accept fares from concessionary fare card holders, especially as they are keen to pay to keep the service going.”
He added that the service was under review and his company was liaising with the county council.