'NONSENSICAL' changes to a bus service will force the elderly and disabled to walk further to reach hospital, it is being claimed.

The move has provoked anger in Otley, leaving hospital staff and residents furious about the cut which has been announced 'to improve reliability.'

Now First Bus is being urged to rethink its plan- due to come into effect from Sunday, August 31 - which will see the 965 service by-pass Wharfedale Hospital during peak times.

The bus, which serves the Weston and Newall Estates and Wharfedale Hospital will no longer stop in the hospital grounds between 10am and 4pm Monday to Friday.

A notice from First says 'buses will continue to serve the stop within the hospital grounds: Monday-Fridays: from 7.30am to 10am; from 5pm to 8.45pm Sundays; all journeys up to 8.45pm’

Leader of Otley Town Council, John Eveleigh (Lab. Ashfield) has branded the changes "completely nonsensical."

He said: "It beggars belief that First Group think that this proposal is, in anyway, a satisfactory solution to resolve their poor performance across the town. Cutting the peak time drop-off at the hospital is just not acceptable. This will clearly adversely affect many older and disabled patients who are now expected to walk the 200 yards from Newall Carr Road to the hospital entrance.’

Coun Eveleigh said he had written to CounJames Lewis, Chairman of the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (WYITA) to complain about First Group’s proposals.

He said: "I am hoping that WYITA will make representations to First to make them think again – I have been inundated with calls from staff at the hospital and residents who are patients who are absolutely furious with First Group’s attitude and lack of consultation – and I have to say that I agree with them."

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) has also warned that attempts to improve the punctuality of the 965 service will mean problems for passengers travelling to Wharfedale Hospital.

He argued the new timetable would force passengers to use a stop which is roughly a five minute walk away or to use the 940, which only runs once every 75 minutes.

Coun Campbell said: "Many of those bound for or from the hospital are unable to walk for any length of time but are now faced with the choice between a walk or a long wait for the 940 bus.

"While I welcome First Bus’ commitment to increasing the efficiency of their services, I do not agree that it should be at the expense of those who most need them. More and more of those attending the hospital will struggle to get to their appointments.

"We should be looking at expanding the number of patients the hospital treats but this will be far harder should the hospital lose its half hourly bus service.

"I would urge First to look again at their timetabling and in particular why they need to run an unsuitable double decker bus on this route. I believe they can run their service to time without affecting passengers who need to visit the hospital."

Head of commercial for First Bus, Paul Turner, said: "In recent months we have become increasingly concerned about the reliability of service 965 due to traffic conditions around Otley - particularly between the morning and evening peak periods.

"We have therefore been looking at possible solutions to improve reliability and maintain the maximum levels of service possible - within the resources available. As part of that review we've taken into account our own service data together with the comments that we have received from our customers.

"After careful consideration, we will be making changes to the timetable from Sunday, August 31 that will mean the 965 will not serve the bus stop within the Wharfedale Hospital site between 10am and 4pm on Mondays to Fridays and between 10am and 5pm on Saturdays.

"The nearest stop for the hospital, for journeys that don't enter the hospital site, will be on Newall Carr Road, near the junction with The Crescent. Customers who wish to travel to the hospital during these times will still be able to do so from Otley bus station by using Metro's 940 service which is run by Wharfeconnexions.

"Journeys serve the hospital at 9am, 10.15am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.45pm and 4pm.

"The 965 will continue to serve the hospital Mondays to Fridays from 7.30am to 10am and from 4pm to 8.45pm, Saturdays from 8.30am to 10am and from 5pm to 8.45pm and on all journeys on Sundays up until 8.45pm.

"I believe this is the best overall solution to ensure we improve reliability whilst maintaining the frequency of the service along the majority of the route. We will however continue to monitor the position closely to see if we can improve services to the hospital in the future."