Council reveals £116m ambition to overhaul bus travel in North Yorkshire

The Dalesbus at Usha Gap in Swaledale.

North Yorkshire County Council — which has faced sustained criticism for cutting more bus services than any other council in the country and leaving vulnerable people isolated — has unveiled a £116 million ambition to transform public transport.

The council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, which local authorities must publish this month as part of the national bus strategy Bus Back Better, sets out how the authority aims to work in partnership with bus operators to increase passenger numbers and improve reliability and journey times over the next eight years.

Crucially, the plan is designed to ensure bus services cover the whole of the England’s largest county, something which the council said was unachievable until recently due to passengers being too few and far between.

The plan highlights how its intention to roll out demand-responsive bus services and support commercial bus services impacted by the Covid-19 are its highest priorities.

The document also reveals a target of increasing the 12.1 million passenger journeys in North Yorkshire in the year to March 2019 to 14.3 million journeys by 2030.

If the authority receives all the funding it needs for the plan £23 million would be spent on developing bus priority routes, £74 million on other infrastructure changes and £14 million on support for bus services.

The council’s executive member for access, Councillor Don Mackenzie, said the £1.5 million the authority spends annually subsidising bus services in the county did not go far enough.

He said the plan, which has been backed by most bus operators, will see public funds pumped into improving existing services and kick start new markets that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, in the hope more passengers will be attracted to the services to make them commercially viable.

He said: “Bus travel is very important to us in North Yorkshire, even more important than rail travel because many more people travel by bus than rail.

“If all the improvements set out in the plan are achieved it would be magnificent.”

In a first for the county, the document will bring together a strategy for where bus priority measures are needed, where there are pressures on the road network and air quality issues alongside actions to transform the local bus fleet to zero carbon emissions.

While recent years have seen the authority accused of failing to identify local needs, the plan has been developed following discussions with more than 100 organisations ranging from parish councils and voluntary groups to the NHS.

The discussions found the top priorities for bus users were clean, safe, accessible buses and waiting facilities, more frequent services, simpler payments for tickets and more evening and Sunday services.

The plan will introduce a consistent under-19 qualifying age for fares across North Yorkshire on all bus services, a 50 per cent fare for jobseekers and apprentices, a comprehensive bus service website for the county and improved information at bus stops.

A report to a meeting of the council’s executive on Tuesday warns third party funding contributions would be needed for some elements of the plan.

It states: “The funding ask has had to be developed without knowledge of any funding the council might receive. As such if insufficient funding is received delivery of projects will need to align within the funding envelope that is received.”

4 Comments

  1. “The funding ask has had to be developed without knowledge of any funding the council might receive. As such if insufficient funding is received delivery of projects will need to align within the funding envelope that is received.” I have read some meaningless garbage in my time, but this takes the biscuit. It means: “Of course none of this will happen if we don’t get the money which hasn’t been promised anyway.” In other words, the whole so-called project is a fantasy. And taxpayers are footing the wage bill of people who can’t string a meaningful sentence together, never mind get a bus service running.

    • That’s unfair. NYCC can’t be blamed for the way the government has decided how to distribute the money.

  2. Let’s hope the new scheme provides regular bus service from the highly populated areas (Catterick/Richmond ) close to the Upper Dales sufficient to enable people to work in the hospitality and other industries that are currently being forced to close or reduce hours because of lack of staff – early morning mid afternoon and late night to cover all shifts …

  3. Bus services are next to non-existent over most of North Yorkshire. No Saturday service between Bedale and Leyburn, a ghost of a service between Richmond and Northallerton, no evening services anywhere from Northallerton and most other places. It’s all very well putting in bus priority measures but they are useless if there are no buses. The County Council needs to wipe the service map clean and start again by actually finding out where people want to go and when and working from there.

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