Bus strike leaves Skelmersdale's residents stranded

  • Published
Image caption,
Maureen Nixon said people were really struggling to get around

A whole town has been left cut off by public transport as an ongoing bus strike shows no sign of ending.

Skelmersdale in Lancashire was purpose-built in 1961 to cope with the expanding population of Liverpool but famously has no railway station.

So when Arriva North West cancelled services across the region in a row over pay last month, residents were left with few transport options.

Recent talks with the bus drivers union collapsed earlier this week.

Local councillor Maureen Nixon said: "This town was built for those who drive and if you don't drive you have to rely on buses."

Ms Nixon said she normally travels by bus to hospital appointments with her partner after he had a stroke.

She said her son, who lives in Blackpool, is also being forced to pay for taxis from Wigan when he travels to the town to see his children.

Image caption,
Skelmersdale was developed in 1961 for the expanding population of Liverpool but has no railway station

"People rely on buses to get to shopping and the elderly to go to work," she said.

"Pensioners need to go shopping or to appointments. The cost of living is already through the roof".

However, the Labour councillor said she did not blame the drivers and supported the industrial action.

"Drivers have been left with no choice, they have to do it. Arriva need to get their act together. They just want money to feed their families and live a decent standard of life," she said.

Arriva said it was "extremely disappointed" the drivers had not accepted its latest pay offer, but the unions said the firm had not improved on its previous 8.5% rise.

Image caption,
Freya said she was missing out on regular visits to see her mum

Resident Freya said she had also found it difficult to travel anywhere from the town's Hillside housing estate.

She usually uses buses to visit her mother in Wigan twice a week and said she hoped the pay dispute would be resolved soon.

"I love seeing my mum and she loves seeing her grandchildren. It would be great to go see her again, very, very quickly," she said.

Community worker Margaret Highton, who has worked at the Evermoor Hub community centre for more than two decades, said people were struggling to get to supermarkets.

Image source, Margaret Highton
Image caption,
Margaret Highton, 72, said people were struggling to afford taxis

"A lot of people coming to the centre can't get to the shops at all," she said.

"To get to the concourse, well that's £6 each way so at least so £12 before you've even spent any money on food.

"In Skelmersdale its the bus or a taxi or walk, but not everybody is able to walk, or can afford a taxi."

The 72-year-old, who also runs a food bank, said she fully supported the bus driver's strike.

"At the end of the day people cannot live on wages that are not keeping up with inflation," she said.

"We are seeing people coming here who now just can't make ends meet, what with gas and electricity and food prices all going up.

"I've worked here for over 20 years and the last few months are the worst I've ever seen. Its heart-breaking".

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