THE founder of a service hailed as a 'lifeline' for vulnerable women in the town says the company has been forced off the road by excessive rules and regulations.

Pink Ladies, which transports vulnerable women who have signed up to the service as a member, has been in operation for almost 10 years.

But the service closed down on New Year’s Eve after founder Tina Dutton was unable to renew the company’s permits due to 'unrealistic expectations'.

The company, which currently has 14,000 registered members who rely on the service and 15 employees, has been fighting since October to remain open but Tina says there has been too many hurdles to overcome.

Tina said: "This is due to red tape and I just can't see a way around it. After 10 years of various obstacles we just can’t do it anymore.

"It’s been a difficult decision but I’ve haven’t got the energy to fight again. All we want to do is offer a good safe service, which for the last 10 years I believe we have done.”

The members club, which was launched in June 2005, has bounced back time and time again after facing a series of setbacks including a number of court cases.

But it is with a heavy heart that Tina has decided that now is the time to shut up shop.

She said: “Both the staff and I are going to miss the members. They are a part of our family.

“One lady told me she feels like she has lost all her friends. It’s really upsetting. We just hope the council will realise how vital the service is and offer something similar.

“The drivers are not just taxi drivers – they are so much more. They walk them to the door, help them with their shopping, and so much more than what is expected."

One 79-year-old service user, who has asked to remain anonymous, said it was a 'big loss' to the town and was unsure how she would cope without Pink Ladies.

Driver Tracy Barnard, aged 50, from Callands, said: "For the past 10 years Tina gave it her all - serving the borough and helping to make a difference.

"For the past few months I have had the enormous pleasure to be of some service to our ladies of this town.

"They gave me a sense of purpose, my dignity at having a job after being made redundant. To meet and greet these lovely ladies, whom I got to know, will always have a special place in my heart."