SPECIAL REPORT: 'We feel like prisoners in our own homes' say residents of Northampton road hit by bus cut

Residents in Kingsley Road say they have been left cut adrift by the axe to the number 19 Uno bus. Pictures by Leila Coker.
Residents in Kingsley Road say they have been left cut adrift by the axe to the number 19 Uno bus. Pictures by Leila Coker.

It has only been six weeks since Kingsley was cut from the No 19 Uno bus route – but already elderly residents say they have become “prisoners in their own home”.

It’s a great time of change in Northampton. The £350m Waterside Campus is finally ready to open and draw the university together on one site.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Ahead of this huge movement of students to the south of town, the university’s bus service Uno reduced its routes on August 5.

It included a complete omission of stops in Moulton Village, Kingsley Road, Kingsthorpe Grove, Boughton Green Road and Links View.

But now, hundreds of elderly residents and people without cars in those neighbourhoods have been left stranded.

Since the cuts, dozens of people have called the Chronicle & Echo to say they have lost their lifeline to visit town, see friends or go shopping.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pat McGrath used to catch the No 19 bus five days a week. Now she says she hasn’t seen her friends since the beginning of August.

She said: “I used to go catch the bus and go into town to see my daughter for a coffee every Saturday. You can forget that now. The cabs there and back costs £12 a trip. I just stay in now.”

Some say they have not seen friends or left the house since the beginning of August.

The nearest bus stop from Kingsley Road is a half a mile away in Kingsley Park Terrace. For most, it’s a 10-minute walk. But for those who need it the most, it’s not so easy.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pat said: “It’s all uphill from my house to the new bus stop. It wasn’t a problem when I was younger. Now it’s like climbing Everest.

“I get so tired. And if I get any shopping, I can’t carry it back.”

Another pensioner, Fred Bicknells, said: “I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I miss my town centre. I miss meeting with friends.

“I’ve had elderly ladies crying to me. They say, ‘what am I going to do?’”

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Even as the Chron met with the residents of Kingsley Road to take the photos you see on this page, they realised many of them hadn’t seen each other for weeks. Catching the bus meant catching up with friends.

The cuts to the Uno buses were done with the town’s younger residents in mind. But the real people it has affected are the town’s eldest residents. The Chron believes something must be done.

ARE YOU AFFECTED BY THE CUT? SIGN OUR PETITION

Today, the Chronicle & Echo is launching a petition to partially reinstate the No 19 for the hundreds of elderly residents who rely on it every day.

We are asking Uno and the University of Northampton to review their maps and find a way to have these precious buses stop on their original routes just once an hour.

If you support the campaign, please sign our petition here

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Pictures by Leila Coker.

Every name helps prove how valuable these buses are. Letters of support for the Uno buses and how losing them has affected you are also welcome.

Before August, the No 19 bus ran every 10 minutes. Now, the Chron is asking if Uno can find the time to run it just once an hour instead.

“Even twice a day would be fine,” said Pat McGrath, who used to catch the No 19 five days a week: “One in the morning and one in the afternoon. That would be enough.

“But right now, as it is, we don’t have any. We just cannot get by.”

'UNO: WE DON'T HAVE THE MEANS FOR MORE BUSES'

Northampton’s purple Uno buses are run to support the university’s staff and students, with the public welcome to ride as well. But routes were trimmed in August ahead of the opening of the Waterside Campus.

While Uno has no obligation to provide a bus service for the wider public, the Chron hopes it can prove to the company how much people rely on it as a lifeline to see friends, visit town and go to work.

Managing director Jim Thorpe said: “We’re a small bus company running about 20 buses in Northampton. Our core routes focus on those customers travelling between the town centre, the park and ride, and the university.

“We don’t receive any external support and we have to use our limited resource where it will benefit the most people. We still try to serve as many areas as we can, however it’s not always possible to maintain the same levels of service.

“We’re disappointed that some people are unhappy with the changes, but unfortunately we don’t have the means to access any additional resource.”