Wensleydale Sunday bus service facing the axe

Bus passenger Ruth Annison and the Dales and District Sunday service.

Councillors have been urged to intervene to save a Sunday bus service in the Dales.

Community leaders claim “outdated” policies on Sunday travel could result in the loss of the Sunday 856 bus service along Wensleydale between Hawes, Leyburn, Bedale and Northallerton.

A local transport user group is asking local councillors to intervene to instruct officers of North Yorkshire County Council to find the £14,000 per year needed to retain the 40-mile bus service.

The service has been running with short-term support from First TransPennine Express, but that funding will shortly run out.

The service is managed by Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company, a volunteer-run company which is dependent on fundraising from numerous sources to maintain its services.

A request to North Yorkshire County Council for financial support has been declined, as the council’s local transport plan, dating back to 2016, excludes support for Sunday and leisure services.

Colin Speakman, vice chairman of the Friends of DalesBus, said: “In a few months’ time, the 856 Wensleydale Flyer 856 Sunday bus between Hawes and Northallerton, a lifeline for Dales communities, may cease to operate, not because of lack of money, but because of NYCC’s irresponsible and outdated anti-Sunday bus policy.”

Friends of DalesBus say there are three main reasons why the  856 bus services should be retained, all of which reflect North Yorkshire County Council and the Government’s own policies to support the rural economy, they group added.

These reasons include support the local economy post-Covid, delivering social and wellbeing benefits and protecting the environment and reducing car dependency.

“Loss of the service will result in scores of extra car journeys including lift giving in the form of family and friends taxiing runs that will be needed if the bus no longer operates, resulting in more carbon being emitted just when reductions are vital to tackle the climate emergency,” the group added.

In response, Ian Fielding, the county council’s assistant director for transport, said: “The county council’s policy is not to provide support for Sunday services.

“Our funding for supported local buses is limited and we prioritise it towards maintaining access to vital services such as shops and healthcare.

“We would like to be able to provide additional support for Sunday and leisure services but we have to make hard choices about where we spend our limited resources.

“This is true now more than ever.”