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Swanley pensioners 'up in arms' over mini-bus price hike
Around 1,000 pensioners in the Swanley area face losing their freedom as the price of a beloved Age Concern bus rises.
The bus, run by Rural Age Concern Darent Valley, transports elderly residents to Swanley for shopping and club trips from areas such as Crockenhill, Farningham, Hextable, Horton Kirby and New Ash Green.
The mini bus runs every day and costs pensioners just £1 per journey.
But from July bus users will be asked to pay a quarterly payment in advance.
The payment, which equates to approximately £1.50 per journey, will cost £40 per quarter for one return use of transport each week - reduced to £25 for those who only use the service fortnightly.
Alexander Walker, aged 68, of Russett Way, Swanley, is the chairman of the Swanley Monday Club and committee member of the town's Thursday Club.
He is concerned club members, aged 70 to 90, will no longer be able to afford the service and could become trapped in their own homes.
He said: "They're up in arms about it.
"For some of them it is their only life-line.
"I care about them, I don't want to see them stuck inside."
Thursday club member, June Garnham, aged 79, from Crockenhill said: "I'm quite concerned about this.
"I use the bus five days a week so it would be about £800 for me and I can't afford all that money.
"I would have to leave the club and this is the only thing we've got in Swanley."
Age Concern chief officer John Arnold said: "We regret some clients are unhappy about this but at the end of the day we have a duty of care to provide the best service we can.
"Running costs have gone up and we have to balance that out.
"When we took over from Sevenoaks they were using a pre-pay scheme and that worked really well. "We are only asking clients to pay every three months and for about half the price of what Sevenoaks were charging.
"A lot of people were keen to have this kind of system back."
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