90 bus services cut across North Yorkshire

Rural bus services in North Yorkshire have been hit.
Rural bus services in North Yorkshire have been hit.

North Yorkshire has axed 90 bus services this financial year - more than anywhere else in the country.

Figures released by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) show half of local authorities have slashed funding for buses, with more than £9m lost this financial year, bringing the total reduction since 2010/11 to £44m.

North Yorkshire has the worst record, with 30 more services cut than next highest area, Cumbria.

CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: “Year on year cuts to budgets mean entire networks have now disappeared, leaving many communities with little public transport and in some cases none at all.

“We often hear from people with heartbreaking stories, who have been effectively cut off from society following cuts to their bus service.

“It’s very worrying that further cuts in budgets are threatened next year and beyond. The government must wake up to the crisis facing buses and urgently introduce initiatives which recognise the vital social, economic and environmental role they play.”

Rural areas have been hit particularly hard. The CBT’s North and West Yorkshire Group has already warned Yorkshire faces a ‘beeching of the buses’, and predicts that by 2016 the Dales could lose all scheduled bus services.

This is a concern to Lower Nidderdale and Bishop Monkton division Coun Michael Harrison (Con), who said many people in his area are reliant on a car, which is a ‘big inhibitor’ for people wanting to live and work there.

“For many people a bus service is an essential requirement to give them the opportunity to access services that aren’t immediately available on their doorstep,” he said.

“If we don’t do something there is absolutely a risk to services and the impact on the more outlying communities would be severe.

“It is a big issue and it would be a big concern if no-one was doing anything to try and prevent the complete loss of scheduled services.”

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) is, however, promoting options like community transport and supporting routes that remain commercially viable, according to Coun Harrison.

One example is the community car purchased by NYCC for Pateley Bridge out of a £1.5m fund for alternative transport. This will be operated by Nidderdale Plus.

NYCC executive member for public passenger transport Coun Chris Metcalfe (Con) told the Harrogate Advertiser he was surprised by the CBT’s findings.

He said: “I am amazed that we are the worst.

“90 services cut is absolutely astronomical, but if you are talking about a town service you could have 10 or 12 routes and if you take that cumulative amount it may well be that you start to get to that level.

“In actual fact we have been extremely proactive and we are not as brutal as the CBT report seems to imply. We are supportive of communities and we have deferred any further work.”

Coun Metcalfe went on to explain that last year a policy was adopted removing all subsidies from public transport, but there is a moratorium on any further reductions until 2016, after an impact assessment has been carried out.

This, he said, will allow NYCC to judge what effect decisions will have, and see where alternatives exist to target access to services.