CALLS have been made for an increase in public transport for rural areas over fears elderly and disabled people are becoming socially isolated.

Chard resident Melissa Whittaker-Mather has launched an online petition calling on Somerset County Council to review the transport needs of Somerset’s urban and rural communities.

Mrs Whittaker-Mather's petition has so far got 166 signatures and will run for another 12 months.

She said: “Residents in urban and rural villages, especially those that are elderly, disabled and don’t drive, find it so difficult to get transport because it has been cut so much.

“People are becoming socially isolated and are finding it hard to get to hospital appointments and even to work as bus services no longer run in the evenings or on Sundays.

“The links between some routes are awful, meaning it can take hours for residents to get to their destination.”

The former Labour county-council candidate for Chard South called on the council to review the transport needs of rural and urban communities, to find a solution to meet everybody’s needs, to carry out a financial review for a socially and environmentally sustainable transport system, which she said could be paid for by Council Tax.

Councillor John Woodman, cabinet member for highways and transport, said the council is looking into alternative funding sources so more bus services can be provided in rural areas.

He said: “I can confirm that Somerset County Council is working with communities and groups to make sure transport needs are met as much as possible.”

He also said he plans to meet Melissa to discuss the problem.

A council spokesman said: “We continue to spend around £1.5m on subsidies for bus routes that aren’t commercially viable.

“We also fund the demand-responsive Slinky service and provide financial support to community transport schemes to give vulnerable people access to appropriate transport wherever possible.

"However, with the massive reductions in funding, there is simply not enough money to subsidise every bus route in the county.”

To view the petition online, click here.