SPECIAL REPORT - Bus funding cuts could sever ‘vital lifeline’

tis. Harrogate bus station. GS1405082a.

tis. Harrogate bus station. GS1405082a.

0
Have your say

Crucial bus services offering a “vital lifeline” to people in Harrogate could be axed as the county council looks to make savings of £1.1m.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), already committed to saving £92m by March 2015, must now find a further £66m by 2019.

It is looking at slashing its bus subsidies by £1.1m across the county, cutting some routes, reducing others, and bringing in changes to many school services.

The news has prompted concerns from some local councillors who say such brutal measures could have a devastating impact on communities.

“Some people are going to be badly affected,” said County Coun Margaret-Ann De Courcey-Bayley (Lib Dem, Starbeck).

“They have just seen their services sliced and diced.

“I want to make sure we are not abandoning these residents just to save some money.”

The county council spends £4.4m every year plugging a bus funding gap, with some routes, like the DR04 south Harrogate village bus, costing £17.85 per passenger.

The plans to slash this spend, put before county councillors in Harrogate for comment last Thursday, are being consulted on until November 25.

They would see some services axed, including the 104 to Wedderburn, the 110 to Pannal, Oatlands and Burnbridge, as well as the 111 to Claro Road.

These three services, used 30,404 times last year, cost £60,645 to subsidise. A dial-a-ride service would be brought in instead.

Others, such as the 770 Follifoot to Rudding Park, would see services halved to one bus every two hours.

Peter Banks, managing director of the Rudding Park Hotel, has called on the council to reconsider, saying 60 of his staff used the bus to get to and from work every day.

“The phrase “Spoiling the Ship fro a Hap’orth of tar” springs to mind,” he said. “The continued growth and success of Rudding Park is being placed in jeopardy by this decision.”

Brian Dunsby, chief executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade, has called for an overhaul of the Government’s coscessionary fares scheme to save the situation.

He says the scheme, which provides free bus travel to people over 60, should charge a small fare to cover the cost of the subsidy.

“This debate highlights fundamental flaws in the scheme,” he said. “Surely ‘concession’ should mean just that - not free?

“The buses are very popular - but at what cost? There’s no use in having a free bus pass for a bus service that doesn’t exist.”

l The consultation runs until November 25, 2013, with decision makers set to final reports early next year. Any changes would be introduced from next April.

BACKGROUND

Drastic cuts to bus funding for the Harrogate district will see services slashed by £1.1m.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), already committed to saving £92m by March 2015, must now find a further £66m by 2019.

And to do this, it is considering slashing bus services across Harrogate, Ripon, Nidderdale, Wetherby and Knaresborough.

“Whilst we are still committed to investing in public transport we have to look at reducing the amount of money we spend,” said a report put before councillors in Harrogate last week.

“However, no decision to withdraw bus subsidies will be taken without careful consideration of the results of this consultation exercise.”

The report, presented to county councillors at the Harrogate area committee meeting last Thursday, said 80 per cent of the county’s services were run by private providers at a profit.

But 20 per cent - 3.3m passenger journeys - were subsidised by the council at an annual cost of £4.4m.

And now, to claw back some of this cash, cuts are to be considered across the district.

“Our overall strategy is to ensure that as many communities as possible continue to have access to a public or community transport service and that these services give value for money,” said the county report.

“Our first priority is to provide services which meet the day-to-day transport needs of local communities.”

A raft of proposals have been put forward for consultation, cutting some services altogether, reducing others and scrapping school services for children who travel further to go to the school of their choice.

Cuts to poor performing services, where there are three or less passengers on each bus or the subsidy is more than £6 each, would save £156,000.

Cuts to frequency of services, from every hour to every two hours, or on certain days, would save £794,000.

And cuts to town and urban areas, introducing a ‘dial-a-ride’ demand service and fare charges, would save £386,000.

Finally, plans to cut school bus services to children who travel out of their area to the school of their choice, or who live within three miles of their school, will save £400,000.

The consultation runs until November 25, 2013, with decision makers set to final reports early next year. Any changes would be introduced from next April.

SCHOOL BUSES

Savings of up to £400,000 could be made by cutting some bus services for children who choose to go to a school of their choice.

The council is responsible for providing free transport for children who live more than two miles from their primary school or three miles from their secondary.

But many children choose to go to schools further afield, or still catch a lift on the school bus when they live within the set distance.

Now, this could be stopped to save the county council up to £400,000, forcing fare paying children to either switch school, walk up to three miles, or rely on family and friends.

“If you currently pay for home to school transport then it is likely that you will be affected by this proposal,” said council documents.

“If this proposal is implemented we will only provide enough seats for pupils who have an entitlement under our home to school transport policy.”

l Services closed to students who go to a preferred school or live within the set three miles - 847H Ripon - Thirsk School. 143 Boroughbridge - Ripon schools. 607H Knaresborough - Rossett High & Harrogate Grammar School. 670H Jennyfield - Harrogate High School. 683H - Huby to North Rigton. 720H - Burrill to Ripon schools. 721H - Bedale to Ripon schools. 736H - Sharow - Ripon - Nidderdale High School. 739H - Grewelthorpe to Nidderdale.

l Fares of £1 for school buses introduced - 56A -Harrogate-Knaresborough Staveley-Bishop Monkton Ripon Schools. 57B - Harrogate-KnaresboroughStaveley-Boroughbridge Roecliffe. 615H Sicklinghall - Pannal - Rossett & Harrogate Grammar Schools.

l Dial-a-ride to be brought in - 131 Ripon Bus Station - Lark Lane. 132 and 134 - Ripon Bus Station - Lead Lane - Gallows Hill.

l Service cut - 636H Pannal & Burnbridge - St Aidans & St John Fisher Schools.

SERVICES UNDER THREAT

Use it or lose it

Two services, the DR04 South Harrogate Village Bus and the 23 Harrogate to Markington Circular (Wed) could be cut altogether if they continue to underperform. Last year, the service cost £10,353, serving 1,021 passengers. Each passenger journey had a subsidy of £17.85 per journey.

Dial-a-ride

Bus services are to be cut and replaced with a dial-a-ride service where passengers can register to ride three days a week. These are the 104 - Harrogate to Wedderburn, 110 - Harrogate to Pannal, Oatlands and Burnbridge, 111 - Harrogate to Claro Road. These three services cost £60,645, served 30,404 customers a year, and need a subsidy of £2.01 per passenger journey. The 131 - Ripon to Lark Lane, 132 and 134 - Ripon to Lead Lane and Gallows Hill - services are also under threat. They cost £26,455, served 50,367 people, at a subsidy of 65p per passenger journey.

Reduced service

The operating days are to be cut on the 136 - Ripon to Melmerby, Barker Business Park, 137 - Ripon to Laverton, 138 - Ripon to Mickley, Grewelthorpe, 139 - Ripon to Fountains Abbey and villages. These four services cost £77,166, served 11,775 people at a subsidy of £8.48 per passenger journey. Some services on the 142/3 - Ripon to Skelton, Boroughbridge, York, Dishforth, are to be cut. The cost here is £124,624, serving 47,158 people a year, at a subsidy of £2.50 per journey. The 411, 412, and 413 from Wetherby to Bickerton, York and Cattal are to drop from hourly to two hourly. These services cost £55,550, help 25,783 passengers, at a subsidy of £2.41 per journey. The 770 Follifoot to Rudding Park is to be reduced to two hourly. This service costs £28,398, at a subsidy of £2.68 per journey. The 780 - Knaresborough to Wetherby - from hourly to four times a day. Cost is £55,538, with 45,582 passengers, subsidy of £2.30 per journey. And the 144 - Bedale to Masham, cut to Monday, Wednesdays and Friday. This services costs £22,949, serves 7,311 passengers, at a subsidy of £3.14.