Bus services in North Yorkshire are now facing “a potential cliff-edge” after the county failed to secure any money to improve services in the government’s high-profile Bus Back Better scheme, a transport boss has warned.
In a statement to a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council next Wednesday, Councillor Keane Duncan said the authority was aware several of the county’s commercial routes were facing “significant pressures”, due to the loss of government subsidies in three months.
The warning from the Conservative-led council’s executive member for highways and transportation comes ahead of bus services across the country having to introduce a £2 price cap on local and regional journeys from October.
It also comes just three months after it emerged the authority’s £116 million Bus Back Better bid had been rejected in its entirety by the government, which claimed the bid had lacked “sufficient ambition”.
As winning the grant had been crucial for elements of the county’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, the authority expressed dismay at the decision.
Even ahead of the decision in March, members of the authority’s executive had underlined the need for bus services for the county’s rural communities, which dwindled following significant austerity cutbacks.
Coun Duncan said the council had launched a review of the passenger service network across the county to understand which could become threatened in the coming months.
He said: “The end of the Commercial Bus Services Support Grant provided by central government in October presents a potential cliff-edge in terms of the future profitability of routes our residents rely upon.”
He said the review would enable him to assess potential support the council could provide “to keep as many of our vital services running as possible”.
The authority’s opposition leader, Councillor Bryn Griffiths, said concerns had been mounting for the viability of some bus services as they appeared to have reached a tipping point.
Coun Griffiths said by giving one-off grants for specific projects limited to certain places the government was failing to provide the resources needed to improve access to public transport across England’s largest county.
He said: “It’s an appalling situation. We lose out in the North of England in rural areas because the government doesn’t recognise the issues.
“Places like Bilsdale have no bus services on Sundays because the county council cannot afford to subsidise them, so people can’t get to hospitals to visit their loved ones. Cutting services even further is just ridiculous.
“It’s a vicious circle. You get fewer services, so it gets less and less attractive for people to use.”