Mum's concerns High Littleton bus route cuts will leave disabled son 'isolated'

030223 Bus cuts Bath LDRS
Josh currently gets to school in Bath on the bus Credit: LDRS

A mum from North East Somerset says her disabled son with be left "isolated" when their village loses both its regular buses.

Stacey Lane and her family living in High Littleton. Her vulnerable son Josh relies on the bus to get to Bath where he is due to start college in September.

In April, as part of the bus cuts across North East Somerset, the village will lose the 178 bus between Midsomer Norton and the Brislington Park & Ride.

In June, it will also lose the 179, the village's last connection to Midsomer Norton and only bus to Bath.

Ms Lane said: "I don't want him to feel isolated. He's such a sociable boy that, when it was lockdown and he had to stay in, he suffered so much because he didn't have that social side."

Josh has a rare condition called 48 XXYY syndrome, which means he has a "range of disabilities" including issues with understanding.

The West of England's Metro Mayor plans to introduce the "WEST link" - a fleet of minivans which people can book by an app to connect them with bus routes.

But Stacey said this will just lead to extra stress for Josh: "With a normal bus service, he would know what bus to catch, what time, and what time to expect to be in Bath.

"He will know where to walk and what time he will get to college. He will know how to get home. He will have a little independence.”

Josh currently gets to school in Bath on the bus, and was going to learn the bus route he needed to take to college at Easter.

The training is funded by Bath and North East Somerset Council and helps people to learn to use their bus route independently.

But Ms Lane said the training is "useless' because it is all changing in June.

She added: “I have absolutely no idea how my son will be attending college come September and there is absolutely no support.

“Vulnerable adults and children will be hit incredibly hard and isolated from the world.”

Stacey Lane is concerned about her son's future when the bus services are axed Credit: LDRS

The bus cuts stem from a conflict between the West of England Combined Authority and the three local councils that make it up, who decided not to increase their transport funding above the rate of inflation.

As a result, 42 bus services supported by council money are being cut across the West of England.

Bath and North East Somerset Council announced it had found funding to protect all its supported services in the city of Bath, but would not support any in North East Somerset after June.

Council leader Kevin Guy said this is because the area would be covered by Metro Mayor’s “WEST Link” minivans.

But Metro Mayor Dan Norris has insisted these are “not a replacement for supported buses” and called on councils to let him raise taxes for buses.

While local government debates who funds what, thousands of people face the threat of losing their bus service.

Ms Lane said: “He’s just not going to get to college. I’m just panicking about it.”

In response to Ms Lane's concerns, Bath and North East Somerset Council said it is working to help rural communities affected by the bus cuts.

Councillor Sarah Warren, deputy leader and cabinet member for climate and sustainable travel, said: “We are really sorry to hear about Josh’s situation, and completely appreciate the concerns of his mother.

"We understand that the new Demand Responsive Transport system is a significant change for our communities.

"We are lobbying the West of England Combined Authority, which is responsible for the bus services in the West of England, to help our communities to transition to DRT.

“To give our communities more time to get used to the new system we have put in additional funding to extend some rural services, including the 179, for two months.

“We are also lobbying the Mayor to invest some of the £50m he received from Government through the Bus Service Improvement Programme fund into additional conventional bus services outside of Bath, to make DRT more accessible."

Credit: John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter