TWo pilot schemes for what will be the biggest transport revolution in living memory for the Yorkshire Dales will be put in place next month.
The Dales Integrated Transport Alliance (DITA) which recently scooped £1.1million in government funding, has announced two pilot schemes are to begin across Nidderdale and Craven in September. These will then be rolled out across Wensleydale and into Cumbria.
Helen Flynn, the chairwoman of DITA, which was set up by existing transport providers and community groups, earlier this year, said the announcement is paving the way for the group’s plans to create seven local tansport hubs across the Yorkshire Dales, including one in Ripon monitored by a central IT scheduling system.
It is also envisaged passengers will be given smart tickets similar to London’s Oyster cards in order to travel on public transport around the national park.
“This will be the biggest transport revolution in the dales in living memory, ” she said.
“Until now there has been a systematic decline in services throughout the national park.
“What these pilots mean is that we can trial innovative community-led approaches before the end of the year.
“There is a potential here to really have an impact on the way transport is provided in rural areas.
“Already now we are seeing the model we are proposing being replicated across the country.
“Trialling systems first will ensure we can create sustainable solutions.
“We do hope as many communities as possible can get involved and show their support.
“It is only through us listening to residents and visitors to our area that sustainable solutions can be developed.”
The pilot scheme in Nidderdale will focus on providing feeder routes on to the main 24 bus route between Harrogate and Pateley Bridge, through communal minibuses and car share schemes.
A two-week “ditch the car” event is also in the pipeline, with talks currently ongoing between transport chiefs as to whether it is feasible in the area.
The Craven pilot is being focused on the students travelling to Craven College and it is hoped it will provide a model which can be replicated in schools in other parts of the Dales and help address the worrying drift of a generation of youngsters away from the area.
“These students are travelling into college from far and wide and we want to find out how they travel, ” Helen Flynn said.
“The lack of transport links is a big contributor to rural poverty across North Yorkshire and DITA was particularly set up for young people who are marginalised because of this and to stop them moving away.”
DITA will be carrying out surveys and transport needs assessments in both areas from next month, in partnership with the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, with the pilot schemes in operation by the end of the year.
DITA secured the £1.1m grant from the Department for Transport’s local sustainable transport fund in July.
Of the 73 bids submitted across the whole of the country in April, only 34 – one of which was DITA – were awarded the full amount they bid for.
It was also the only community-led organisation to gain funding.
Last week a Transport Select Committee review – started following the Government’s spending review last autumn – revealed that cuts to rural, evening and weekend services are damaging the ability of many people, especially the elderly, young or disabled, to get jobs or improve their education.
The cross-party committee also issued a warning of even deeper cuts in bus services next year, as local authorities struggle with smaller budgets.
DITA was set up in January after North Yorkshire County Council announced it was slashing its transport budget by 10 per cent.