Thursday, 03 December 2020

Partially blind woman stranded by bus cuts

A WOMAN from Peppard says she feels stranded after the bus service she used three times

A WOMAN from Peppard says she feels stranded after the bus service she used three times a week was axed.

Heather Ogilvie-White, 74, used to catch the M1 bus, which would stop in the village on its way from Watlington to Reading, to go shopping and attend doctor’s appointments.

The service, which was operated by Oxfordshire County Council, was stopped on July 20 as the authority scrapped its bus route subsisies in order to save £3.7million.

Mrs Ogilvie-White, who used to wait for the bus on a bench not far from her home in Church Lane, said: “This has made life very difficult for me. I can’t go out to shop or meet people.

“The service was every two hours and you would have to be quick once you got to Reading because you only had two hours but it was better than nothing.”

Mrs Ogilvie-White, who is blind in her right eye and needs medication for glaucoma and cataracts in her other eye, now has to rely on her daughter Serane Davies, who also lives in Church Lane, to get around.

She said the loss of the bus would affect residents of other villagers where it used to stop, including Highmoor, Nettlebed and Kidmore End.

Mrs Ogilvie-White, who has lived in Peppard for 40 years, said: “There were three other people with sight problems who used the bus. It went from being publicly funded to being partly funded by the council and then fully funded by the council.

“A lot of people who used the bus were not bus pass holders and said they would be more than willing to pay. The bus was like a club — everyone knew everyone and if someone was missing we would make sure they were okay the next time they were on the bus.

“If someone was late for the bus it would wait a few minutes for them.” Mrs Ogilvie-White said the bus drivers were always helpful and kind to her.

On one occasion she was carrying some beanpoles and waiting to cross the B481 when it was busy and the driver got out and helped her across and carried the beanpoles to her house.

Mrs Davies, 44, is concerned that her mother won’t be able to get into Sonning Common to visit the health centre.

She said: “I went to the local pharmacy to ask how my mother could access her regular and vital prescription when I am not here. They were astounded that she has been left in this position but thankfully were able to deliver prescriptions in this instance. However, the problem remains that mum is not able to take her repeat prescription to the surgery for them to issue it to the pharmacy and she is not online.”

The nearest service is the pink 25 bus run by Reading Buses, which runs from Reading station to the Unicorn pub in Colmore Lane and stops near the Pet Barn, on Blounts Court Road and opposite Peppard Stores in Stoke Row Road.

However, Mrs Davies said it would be too dangerous for her mother to walk to any of these stops, even if she could see properly. “The route is not appropriate for all but the young, agile and fully able,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to walk up the hill with shopping. It’s narrow, overgrown and the cars go down there quite fast.”

Mrs Ogilvie-White added: “When I phoned the council they asked me about walking to another stop. I said I was not able to walk up the hill and the pavement on the side of the road is narrow. The council didn’t know.”

Mrs Davies believes the loss of the bus service would have a wide impact. She said: “The bus helps to keep people social and independent. The longer they remain independent and healthy within their own homes, the less the burden will be on the NHS and the social care system.

“The fact that those living a mile down the road, also within South Oxfordshire, enjoy a regular daily bus service to Sonning Common, Caversham and Reading, only makes us more angry.

“Why should my mother have to move from the home she loves, before she is ready, just because someone decided to remove all other options from her? They are gambling with the welfare of the elderly.”

A council spokesman said: “The M1 service was one of 118 bus routes in Oxfordshire which received a council subsidy. Unfortunately, we had to make the difficult decision to withdraw this financial support. This included the services run by our internal fleet services team, who operated the M1 bus service.

“We have advised the family to speak to our visual impairment team to see if there is any additional support available to help with Mrs Ogilvie-White’s independence.”

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