COUNCIL chiefs have pledged they will solve the problem of a dial-a-ride booking system that has left pensioners unable to get to shops and social clubs.

Block booking on the door-to-door service has left elderly residents without transport and buses pensioners were told were in fact empty.

Oxfordshire County Council, which took over the service in April, hopes changes will be made to the booking system by the end of the year.

Transport chief Rodney Rose said he was investigating letting drivers use mobile phones to register pensioners for the service on the spot if a bus was not full.

It comes as more pensioners have hit out at the service.

Arthritis sufferer Georgina Smith, 79, has been forced to walk from her home near Florence Park to shops in Cowley.

She said: “Once I have done my shopping I am in agony all evening and all night.

“I cannot afford a taxi. I would not believe they could treat the elderly and disabled in such a fashion. It really is disgraceful.”

Mrs Smith, who had been a regular user since April, said she was unable to block-book places herself because she was on holiday when the system started in August.

Joyce McHale, 92, of Headington, was also away when the new scheme was introduced and has since been unable to get a place on a bus.

She has been forced to travel by taxi with friends to a weekly social club in Jack Straw’s Lane but said she often sees the dial-a-ride bus arrive nearly empty.

She said: “When I phone them they say the bus is full each time. But when it arrives at the club only about three people are on it.”

An 82-year-old Headington resident, who did not want to be named, added: “In August they said it was fully booked until November and I was told to ring in the first week of November, but when I rang I was told it is now fully booked until Christmas.”

She has now bought herself an electric wheelchair to get to nearby shops but is worried about how she will get out if it snows.

Mr Rose, the county cabinet member for transport, said: “Block booking was intended so groups of friends could travel together and get the best out of the set-up, but unfortunately that seems to have failed in this area.”

He said he was not prepared to allow a booking system that would leave seats empty and said the block booking system would be altered, he hoped by the end of the year, to stop this from happening.

But he added: “We still want some form of block booking, rather than a knee jerk reaction to another system that could create another anomaly.”