THERE may be some cause for optimism for Torfaen residents fighting to save a "lifeline" bus service.

Stagecoach plans to end its number 23 service, which runs between Pontypool and Newport, on November 3 – a decision prompting an angry backlash from the people who depend on the number 23 every day.

But following a meeting today (Friday) with concerned bus users, the firm offered a compromise and said it would explore the possibility of extending another service – the number 10 – to cover some of the more out-of-the-way bus stops currently served by the number 23.

Stagecoach South Wales boss Nigel Winter said he hoped this, and other changes, could be made from November 4, subject to Torfaen council approval.

Mr Winter had earlier met with a group of bus users who, led by Abersychan resident Carol Gulliford, handed him a petition, signed by 391 bus users and residents, demanding the number 23 service be saved.

She said: "I won't be able to shop, or help out at the community centre – it'll all have to stop. My life will be over."

She had argued that other bus services, which didn't make as many stops, would leave less-mobile residents stranded. Taxis, she added, were too expensive to be considered as an alternative.

Financial reasons had been cited, too, by Stagecoach when it decided to axe the number 23 service.

In a statement released today, Mr Winter reiterated earlier claims that the number 23 had been running "at an absolute loss for some time".

The service, he added, was "economically and environmentally unsustainable", given declining passenger numbers.

The bus users who handed in the petition admitted that some buses were underused, but argued that the people who used the service did so regularly – in some cases, four times a day from Monday to Friday.

These people would be left in "no man's land", Mrs Gulliford said.

Torfaen councillor Giles Davies, who represents the Abersychan ward, said Stagecoach should also think of "the human cost and effect on people's lives and wellbeing".

After handing in their petition, the bus users and Cllr Giles sat down for a closed-doors meeting with Mr Winter – where the bus firm boss offered to extend the number 10 service to Lasgarn View, Abersychan, and to add an earlier number 10 service to the current timetable.

Following the meeting, Mrs Gulliford said the offer was a "surprise" and a "relief".

Cllr Giles said: "It's a good compromise. They said they had listened to our concerns."