Rural transport plans unveiled

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AMBITIOUS new plans have been unveiled which could change the future of transport across Nidderdale.

The Dales Integrated Transport Alliance (DITA) has been set up by existing bus and rail companies, as well as community groups in the face of cuts in funding.

The DalesBus 24 service on winter Sundays will not be resumed this year after North Yorkshire County Council cut its transport budget by 10 per cent, while the Little Red Bus faced cuts in funding for its services.

But the two companies have joined forces, along with Northern Rail and Transdev, to set up an alternative proposal, supported by the Yorkshire Dales Society, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Nidderdale AONB, Welcome to Yorkshire, Harrogate Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line and the Yorkshire Dales Public Transport Users Group.

It would see a series of transport hubs established in seven proposed centres, including Pateley Bridge as well as Ripon, Grassington, Hawes and others, with transport services coordinated to be as useful and cost-effective as possible.

Lyn Costelloe, chief executive of the Little Red Bus, said: “There’s £560m available from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund. We thought working together we can build on the infrastructure the Little Red Bus has already developed working with the local communities and other bus operators, we can develop a rural network that doesn’t cost any more but is useful to the communities.”

The bid has to be submitted to the government through North Yorkshire County Council by April 18 and DITA is hoping to gain support from county and borough councillors, as well as community organisations and individuals.

It has already been given significant support from Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, as well as fellow MPs William Hague, Andrew Jones, Nigel Adams and Julian Sturdy. It also has expert help from former director of Metro John Carr and Phil White, formerly of National Express.

Ms Costelloe said: “They’re doing a lot of work which saves the county council doing it. It’s a really revolutionary way to provide transport in rural areas. We have got a European group come to use through Newcastle University saying will you be our UK partner and get this bid to Europe.”

Helen Flynn, who joined the scheme through her role as a trustee of the Little Red Bus, is now helping to contact as many community groups as possible to get their support – including the 130 parish councils across the area covered by DITA.

She said: “The fund has two main criteria, one of which is to boost the economy and the second is to reduce carbon.

“One of the things we hope to trial in the first year if we are successful with the bid is how you introduce behaviour change. That could take the form of increasing scheduled services like the 24, but possibly have regularity of service in the peak times so you can get young people and people going to work using the buses rathern than the car.”

The scheme was discussed at Pateley Bridge Town Council’s March meeting, when councillors were keen to support it and maintain services despite the cuts.

Coun Chris Hawkesworth said: “Yesterday it was just short of £90 to fill my car with diesel. Motoring is becoming a rich man’s hobby.

“I think there are going to be people on limited means who are going to want to use the bus. Anything that is integrated that will make it efficient, let’s support it to the hilt.”

Speaking about the plans, Ms Costelloe added: “It’s quite ambitious but absolutely affordable. Whatever is there now, there’s less and less of it so we most have something else. In one way, we’re fighting for survival but in another way, we’re showing we can grow and work in different ways and develop this integrated transport model.

“It costs less than it would if the county council ran it. We’re saying how can you justify cutting frontline services when we’re saying we can do it and for cheaper?”

Anyone supporting the scheme is asked to contact their local council or, to get involved, email Helen Flynn at helenflynn@me.com or write to her at Carr Farm, Low Lane, Darley.