CRITICISM has been levelled at a bus company as roadworks cut a village off from its service.

Residents in Swanmore have lost their public transport links due to footpath replacement work on Forest Road between Swanmore and Waltham Close, which sees the road closed from 9.30am to 4pm every weekday.

The work, which started in January 4, is scheduled to take up to eight weeks.

While a diversion has been established, Stagecoach, which provides the 69 service through the village, said it will not use the diversion.

In a note on its website, the company said: “Buses on service 69 scheduled to pass through this road between these times will remain on the B2177 Winchester Road between Bishops Waltham and Waltham Chase, so will be unable to serve Swanmore.

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“The 8.25am departure from Winchester and the 9.27am departure from Waltham Chase will be the last morning journeys to serve Swanmore, and after the completion of the work each day services through Swanmore will resume with the 15.25pm departure from Winchester and the 15.55pm departure from Fareham.

“Please be patient during these works which are beyond our control.”

The decision has been criticised by Winchester City Councillor for Central Meon Valley Frank Pearson.

Cllr Pearson said: “Now people at my age, or younger, would have a choice, would have a car.

“But if an elderly person, with no car, which meant they had no access to either the doctors surgeries in Bishop's Waltham or Wickham.

“And a cynic would comment ‘well use a taxi’, what if you can’t afford a taxi?

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“And this was the complaint that came through to me from a resident, that they effectively felt stranded without any consideration.”

Cllr Pearson said that he felt that the county highways and Stagecoach had made the decision “without any real thought of what alternative elderly people might have.”

Swanmore resident Elizabeth Hiscock, 68, also criticised the decision, calling it “not good enough”.

She continued: “Xelabus has managed to reroute their X9 Service to maintain the two hourly service between Bishop's Waltham and Eastleigh so why couldn't Stagecoach?

“In the past they have diverted buses in an emergency on other roads.

“Many elderly people rely on this service to get them to Winchester for hospital appointments and Fareham for grocery shopping.”

A Stagecoach spokesperson said: “Due to the closure of Forest Road, Swanmore we have had to divert local service 69 via the B2177 main road, between Waltham Chase and Bishops Waltham whilst works take place during the daytime hours.

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“We have decided to use this route to minimise delay. but also work in the interests of customer and staff safety.

“The proposed diversion would cause significant disruption, but more importantly is unsuitable for the double deckers used on the majority of journeys.

“Early Morning and late afternoon journeys will be unaffected and will run normal route.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: "We apologise for the inconvenience caused by the essential highways maintenance works that have recently started in Waltham Chase.

"Decisions about commercially run bus services are made by private, independent operators and we understand that other operators have already adapted their services to incorporate the diversion route through Swanmore.

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"Depending on the time of day, this is estimated to add between five and ten minutes to journey times.

"To assist passengers impacted by this temporary service withdrawal, the County Council has temporarily extended the concessionary travel scheme to allow passengers travelling with an Older Persons or Disabled Persons bus pass on the last 69 service that goes through Swanmore in the morning to travel for free.

"This applies to all journeys from 9:11am onwards when the service departs from the Square in Bishops Waltham. This extension will be in place for the duration of the roadworks only."