North Yorkshire residents urged to get on board extra bus services

Residents have been warned a raft of extra bus services across one of England’s most poorly served areas for public transport could be swept away if sufficient numbers of passengers do not get on board.

Leaders of North Yorkshire Council issued the appeal as it was revealed the £3.5m of government funding it had secured would support 20 routes in “all corners of the county” for the coming year.

A meeting of the authority’s executive heard nobody at the Conservative-run council wanted to see a repeat of the swingeing cuts to subsidised bus services that North Yorkshire County Council introduced as austerity measure.

Concerns over access to public transport, which in many rural areas has been non-existent for years, became graver after the council had its £116m bid to revive bus services completely rejected by the government two years ago and the failure of a demand-responsive bus service trial as it proved too expensive.

Meanwhile, the county has also seen timetable reductions or extra financial support given to about a third of its remaining bus services since the pandemic, partly due to rising operating costs and difficulties recruiting drivers.

The extra government funding has been condemned as a pre-General Election bribe by opposition councillors, who have also criticised the short-term nature of the funding, saying it takes time for bus services to build and secure regular passengers.

One opposition councillor said the council was presiding over “a mockery” in which it was increasing services and subsidising young people’s travel using about £3m while pushing forward with a move to cut about £3m out of home to school transport.

Despite the criticisms, the council’s executive member for transport, Councillor Keane Duncan, who is also running to become the region’s first elected mayor, said the funding represented a “reversal of fortune” for North Yorkshire.

He said the authority was working with bus operators to fund extra weekend, earlier, later and more frequent services that had prospects of being continued. after the government funding ended next April.

The Norton councillor said the funds would also be used to employ extra customer service staff at the busiest stations, marketing and a £1 fare cap for under-19s.

Coun Duncan said all the routes with extra support had emerged from suggestions by bus operators and the firms felt they had prospects of becoming viable commercial prospects with the backing of residents.

He told the meeting: “This is very welcome news for passengers, but of course it is vital the services are supported so they can continue in the longer term. This is a pilot for one year so it’s important I issue a plea.”

The council’s finance boss, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said residents were facing “basically a use it or lose it scenario”.

He said: “No government will continue to fund buses that are not sustainable. I would suspect the more rural services are those more at risk. Money will not follow empty buses.”

Describing the £1 fare cap for young people as an “innovative” way of driving up demand, the authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, said North Yorkshire residents needed to prove the services were needed by using them.

3 Comments

  1. What are these extra services then? When and where? Will there be a direct service between Bedale and Thirsk? Between Bedale and Richmond? A Bedale to Northallerton bus that connects with one to Darlington?

Comments are closed.