Diesel cost threat to Sidmouth Hopper

SOARING fuel prices could put the skids under Sidmouth’s valued Hopper bus a week early this summer.

SOARING fuel prices could put the skids under Sidmouth’s valued Hopper bus a week early this summer.

Driving forces behind the service say the escalating cost of diesel has left them searching for an extra �2,500.

The blow comes after the Hopper carried a record 10,000 passengers last year.

Organisers were already saddled with a 25per cent cut in their overall funding.

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They say the free-to-ride service will run from June 1 but may now stop earlier than normal in September.

“I hope the bus will carry on for the full period, but at this moment we can’t guarantee it. It may have to stop a week or so short,” revealed Hopper co-ordinator, working party chairman and town councillor John Dyson.

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“This year we don’t intend any change to the route or timetable. We don’t want to change something that works well. Finance is more tricky,” Councillor Dyson told Sidmouth Town Council’s Annual Assembly last Thursday.

He hailed the Hopper’s “most successful” year in 2010.

This year, however, is the first the service must operate without �5,000 of East Devon District Council (EDDC) cash- a quarter of its �20,000 running costs.

“We’ve been able to fill that gap to some extent,” said Cllr Dyson.

“The cost of diesel fuel jumped up significantly in the last year- it’s going to cost the Hopper quite dearly, around �2,000 to �2,500 extra. We have significant hurdles to overcome.”

Mr Dyson said he’d been “very encouraged” by new support from businesses in the town.

A new three-year agreement with the Sid Vale Association’s Keith Owen Fund will see the cause match any donations made by business owners.

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