By Betsy Everett
The charity whose Sunday bus service was featured in a television documentary watched by nearly a million people is having to take a “begging bowl” to private companies as public funds are withdrawn.
Paul Chattwood, commercial director of the Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company, says North Yorkshire County Council has stopped supporting all Sunday bus services and the national park authority had also withdrawn support. Meanwhile the West Yorkshire Combined Authority which currently provides £22,000 a year has indicated its intention to phase out their funding, over an unspecified period, from April next year.
“It means that non-car owners and people from the inner cities, all the very people we should be encouraging to visit the Dales, are being deprived of that opportunity. We are entirely dependent on volunteers to operate the service and now we are being forced down the road of going with a begging bowl to commercial organisations as public sector funds dwindle,” Mr Chattwood told the annual meeting of Friends of the Dales, formerly the Yorkshire Dales Society, of which Dales and Bowland CIC is a subsidiary.
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He thanked Acorn Stairlifts of Keighley, West Yorkshire, whose sponsorship has enabled the DalesBus Wensleydale Flyer service from Northallerton to Hawes to keep going, Northern PowerGrid, Harrogate Springwater, Northern Rail, and other private enterprises.
“It costs £70,000 a year to provide these Sunday and bank holiday services which in the great scheme of things is not much,” Mr Chattwood added, saying they needed “more assertive”campaigning. “We must bang the drum for more public transport in the dales.”
In the 10 years since the not-for-profit company was formed, DalesBus had provided 345,000 journeys on Sundays and bank holidays. All Aboard the Country Bus, the BBC4 documentary broadcast last year, followed the 830 Northern Dalesman route in ‘real time’ on its 40-mile journey from Richmond to Ribblehead. The service is run by DalesBus, a volunteer organisation managed by Dales and Bowland CIC.