A last-gasp transport lifeline means residents of rural villages left stranded after a key bus service was axed were able to get to work and college today.
Parts of rural Fylde and Wyre were left with no public transport links when the number 80 bus service , which links the coast with Preston, was terminated suddenly last month.
And as students faced their first day back after Christmas today, it seemed efforts to find a replacement bus were not progressing quickly enough.
However, three parish councils – Elswick, Inskip-with-Sowerby and Great Eccleston – have served up a late reprieve, agreeing to subsidise a two-week service to plug the gap left when service operator Classic Bus North West suspended trading.
The makeshift service, which will cost customers £20 a week, gives Lancashire County Council extra time as it tries to come up with a long-term solution. County councillor Paul Hayhurst, who represents Fylde West, said his priority is finding a long-term solution.
He added: “The councils agreed to put on a bus service in the morning, for two weeks, while we try to sort something out.
“We are in a situation where if we don’t do this, people are obviously going to be stranded.”
Linda Wilson, of Inskip, said: “I just think it’s despicable – we haven’t got a bus service. It’s not feasible to make a five-mile walk to get on a bus, especially when it’s dark and there are no footpaths.
“I know of 10 or 15 people here who go to Cardinal Newman College, in Preston, and they need the bus.
“My daughter, Emma, has just got an apprenticeship with the council, in Preston, that was due to start today.
“I can’t drive her because I work in Lancaster.”
County council cabinet member for transport John Fillis said the money that was used to subsidise the number 80 bus in the evenings and on weekends is available to an operator willing to take on the service.
He added: “I can’t put any new money into it but we are speaking to as many people as we can. We are also looking at our own routes to see if we can make adjustments.
“We are working hard contacting people but, unless someone comes forward prepared to have a proper discussion, things are looking desperate.”
For details of the interim service or for tickets call Coun Paul Hayhurst on 01995 670931.
All change after just 11 days for number 80 bus
The number 80 bus service, from Blackpool to Preston via Great Eccleston and Inskip, was previously subsidised by Lancashire County Council.
It was taken over on December 9 by Blackpool-based Classic Bus North West as a commercial route, subsidised in the evenings and on Sundays.
On December 20, 11 days later, the company announced it was ceasing trading due to financial pressures and laying off some of its staff.