Cuts hit hardest in rural areas. It’s not just the services that we’ll miss. It’s the people too.
Yesterday was one of my now infrequent journeys back on the village bus. The bus timetable is fine for college kids, but not for the 37-hour week so my journeys are increasing irregular.
I boarded and greeted Tony, our long serving driver. Come rain, shine, school holiday, Tony drives the bus. (He does get time off, but you get the picture.)
Everyone knows Tony. All the old dears, who rely on the bus for shopping trips to Morrisons in Bideford or an excursion to Barnstaple, know Tony. The college kids get to know Tony. They even have his mobile phone number so they can check if the bus will be running when the snows or ice come.
I know Tony. He knew who I was within days of me using the bus even though I never introduced myself.
Tony and his ilk keep rural Britain running, brightening up someone’s day or not if you’re a driver trying to sneak pass him on a narrow country lane.
Yesterday, Tony told me that it was his last day driving the bus: “you’ll need to break in a new driver tomorrow.”
As previously reported here, our bus faces a drastic pruning. In true cuts fashion, the original stark scenario has been altered. But, still the cuts come and will likely get worse later in the year when the route comes up for tender.
We’re losing the peak time service in school holidays and possibly both daily services over the summer.
The altered hours make Tony’s position untenable. He’s moving to a different route, one less vulnerable than ours.
He’ll no longer get goodie bags from dear Audrey – pasties and bread pudding. No more village gossip. No more sneaky detours on a Friday afternoon. No more free rides when he can’t be bothered to reboot his fare machine.
So long, Tony.