VILLAGERS who fear bus cutbacks may isolate them have drawn up a 102-name petition to try to save their route.
The 882 bus from Hexham to Colwell – one of two rural services in the area costing over £100,000 a year to subsidise – has been earmarked for either closure or reduction.
But locals fear that will isolate the elderly, as well as young people in a string of rural villages.
They have won an early concession, with transport chiefs now promising not to make a final decision until a public meeting has been held.
But with changes due to take effect in April, things have to move fast.
Northumberland transport support manager Ian Coe has pledged that all possible options for the service, run by Snaiths of Otterburn, will be explored.
But Mr Coe warns it will be “difficult to justify” maintaining the current level of service to Barrasford, Gunnerton and Colwell villages.
It does not meet value-for-money criteria set against current and likely future passenger numbers using the four-times-a-day return service.
Deb Haycock, of Barrasford, who organised the petition, said: “There is no doubt that the bus is under-used, and we accept that.
“There are only seven regular users, seven occasional users, and one daily user. The subsidy is also massive – there’s no two ways about it – and I don’t expect it to carry on as it is.
“But my argument is particularly for the young people who do not drive yet need to be able to travel to places like Hexham for temporary or holiday jobs.”
The first weekday bus to Hexham currently departs from Colwell at 8.30am, with further departures at 9.45am, 1.20pm and 2.50pm.
The last bus back from Hexham leaves the town at 5pm and Ms Haycock added: “Even that is sometimes too early for workers. We now have to get round the table with Ian Coe and work out the best possible solution.
“It looks as if we have got the public meeting, so we will talk it through.
“One suggestion could be that we retain the early and late services, but possibly lose the middle ‘shopping’ services.
“The bus has run ever since I moved to the village in 1985, and no doubt long before, but times have changed with today’s economic climate and we have to hope we can satisfy the need better.”
The issue will go before Northumberland County Council’s west area committee meeting in Merton Hall, Ponteland, on Tuesday.