A long walk to the polling booth for Midlothian pensioners

Age Scotland were alerted to another instance of older people being let down by public transport when Elizabeth Bryce of Newton Village in Midlothian told us the only bus going through her village had been cancelled.

“We have to walk for three-quarters of a mile to cast our vote at Danderhall library. And I’m 65 and my husband’s 71,” she said.

Mrs Bryce

Mrs Bryce

Residents of Newton and the other small villages in the area used to catch the 328 bus into Danderhall and Musselburgh but the bus operator cancelled the service at Easter claiming they were losing money. Midlothian Council have since set up a subsidised ‘Ring and go’ taxi service at a flat fare of £1.50 each way but the National Entitlement Card doesn’t cover it.

“People can go all over Scotland with their bus pass but I can’t even get to the local shops. It costs me £3 to go and get a pint of milk,” said Elizabeth.

“My friend’s in her 70’s and she had to get a house call yesterday because she couldn’t get to the doctor’s surgery. Folk are getting depressed. We used to be able to catch the bus and go and sit at Musselburgh harbour on a nice day but now we’re trapped,” she added.

Although the bus contract was not up for renewal until 2016, Edinburgh Coach Lines gave Midlothian council the obligatory 90 days’ notice of cancellation and no other tenders were considered to be financially viable. The council set up the ‘Ring and Go’ service as a short-term solution.

However, more than a month on, there is still no sign of a replacement bus.

Elizabeth thinks that the nearby Shawfair housing development is being used as an excuse to leave them without a bus, as is the new Borders railway which will stop outside the village, but neither development will improve transport links immediately.

“Why should we have to wait years,” asked Elizabeth, “when they can do something like altering the existing route of the number 30 to come through the village once an hour. That’s all it needs.”

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