6th July 2016
A Windermere bus service that was scrapped by Cumbria County Council has continued to operate, thanks to the dedication of local residents.
‘Friends of the 597’ was set up by a group of volunteers from the South Lakeland town, with the aim of raising funds to maintain the 597 bus service which runs a circular route through Windermere and Bowness. Friends of the 597 received a grant of £1,000 from the Holehird Trust, which has enabled them to sustain the bus service.
Many older, vulnerable people, some of whom have mobility and health problems, have been encouraged to use the bus so they feel part of the wider community and can continue being independent.
One elderly lady who does not drive, has benefited greatly from the 597 bus service. Until recently, her husband had driven her everywhere, but a major car accident meant he could no longer drive and she was stuck for transport in to the town.
She said: “I am thrilled that I am able to access the 597 several times a week to get to the Health Centre, go shopping and to my weekly hairdresser appointments. I can also keep in contact with my friends. The 597 has been my lifeline.”
Another lady who has a son with mental health problems, travels regularly on the bus with him. She said: “We enjoy being out and about and interacting with other passengers.”
Dorothy Hill, treasurer of the group, said: “The grant has helped to provide continuity of the 597 bus service. We have also noticed that the 597’s profile has been raised and enhanced and is now starting to be seen as an important part of the community.”
The 597 bus currently runs three mornings a week. However, Dorothy hopes that in the future, the bus service can be accessed throughout the week.
She said: “One day we hope to see the bus running for 6 days a week, but that is very much for the future. Ultimately we want to keep the bus running. Having the funding has enabled us to do this.”