"Begging for a bus": the blind Chorley veteran who says he will be left stranded when village service ends

Road to nowhere - Terry Collins says scrapping the Astley Village bus will leave pensioners like him stranded
Road to nowhere - Terry Collins says scrapping the Astley Village bus will leave pensioners like him stranded

A Chorley pensioner with barely any eyesight says he will be forced to move house when a village bus service comes to an end next month.

Terry Collins, 80, believes many of his elderly neighbours will be faced with a similarly stark choice when Stagecoach scraps the only daytime link between Astley Village and Chorley town centre.

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As the local democracy reporting service revealed last week, the 109A service is being withdrawn because the firm says it is not popular enough. But without it, Terry says some residents will be left stranded – and struggling to reach vital appointments and buy basic essentials.

“There’s nothing here in the village apart from one shop – and they’re limited in what they sell.

“We have no option but to go into town, because there are no doctors or dentists here either. And I have hospital appointments which I have to get to.

“We’d have to get taxis everywhere we went – and we just couldn’t do it. Last week, I got a taxi to the doctors because it was pouring with rain and it cost me £5.40 each way. That’s all right every now again, but not all the time,” added Terry, who has no sight in his left eye and only restricted vision in his right.

The Chorley-born pensioner spent part of his national service in the 50-degree heat of a Middle Eastern desert, so he is used to challenging situations.

But 60 years later, getting a mile down the road without the help of public transport would be beyond what his limited sight and stability will allow.

“I’ve basically been left begging for a bus. There are a few of us who have said we would even be willing to pay if only they would keep it going.

“I’ve lived in my flat for 20 years and I’m happy here, but I’d have to look for somewhere else, because I just couldn’t get out. I think it’s disgusting what they’re doing,” said Terry.

Astley Village contains two sheltered accommodation blocks, including the one which is home to Terry.

Laura Lennox, Chorley borough councillor for Astley and Buckshaw, says residents will be denied access to the services which they expected to be able to reach when they moved to the area. And she says there are less disruptive alternatives which Stagecoach should consider.

“I think it would be possible to divert the 109, which runs from Preston to Leyland, so that it comes through Astley. It goes through Euxton already and if it extended its route, it would also restore Euxton’s link to the hospital, which it lost some time ago.

“The 109 also runs every 30 minutes rather than hourly like the 109A – so more people in Astley would use it as they could rely on it for appointments,” Coun Lennox explained.

But as things stand, there are 10 bus stops in short succession in Astley which will soon be served only by a subsided evening version of the service which is to be scrapped during the day.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council, which provides the night-time subsidy along with Chorley Council, said last week that it was “exploring options to establish if any sustainable replacement service can be provided [during the day]”.

When the timetable changes were published earlier this month, a spokesperson for Stagecoach said: “We are committed to doing all we can to provide our communities with the best possible route options. As a responsible company and employer, we have to make sure that the routes we are running are sustainable and respond to customer demand.

“Unfortunately, due to very low demand from customers and after exploring all possible options, we have made the difficult decision to remove the 109A service which runs from Leyland to Chorley via Astley Village from service. This service will cease from July 21. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to any passengers inconvenienced by this alteration to the route.”