North Yorkshire County Council reveals plans for £116m bus overhaul
A £116 million plan to transform bus services in Harrogate and across North Yorkshire has been unveiled by the county council.
North Yorkshire County Council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, which requires approval at a meeting on Tuesday, sets out how the authority aims to work with bus operators to increase passenger numbers and improve reliability and journey times over the next eight years.
The plan is designed to ensure bus services cover the whole of England’s largest county, something the council said was unachievable until recently due to passengers being too few and far between.
Its top priorities are to expand the council’s on-demand bus service, YorBus, which allows app users to book and track services, and to also support services which have been impacted by the pandemic.
If the council receives all the funding it needs for the plan, £23 million would be spent on developing bus priority routes, £74 million on other infrastructure changes and £14 million on support for bus services.
Councillor Don Mackenzie, the council’s executive member for access, said: “Bus travel is very important to us in North Yorkshire, even more important than rail travel because many more people travel by bus than rail.
“If all the improvements set out in the plan are achieved it would be magnificent.”
In Harrogate, there is strong support for a Park and Ride scheme which county council officials are currently looking into.
There are two potential sites for this - land near Pannal Golf Club and another site near Buttersyke Bar roundabout, south of the village.
The council has also submitted an expression of interest bid to the Government to make all Harrogate Bus Company’s fleet zero-emission.
If successful, the £20m bid will fund 39 new buses and other infrastructure works.
Meanwhile, the Bus Service Improvement Plan has revealed a target of increasing the 12.1 million passenger journeys across North Yorkshire in the year to March 2019 to 14.3 million journeys by 2030.
The plan has been developed following discussions with more than 100 organisations ranging from parish councils and voluntary groups to the NHS.
The discussions found the top priorities for bus users were clean, safe, accessible buses and waiting facilities, more frequent services, simpler payment options for tickets and more evening and Sunday services.
The plan will introduce a consistent under-19 qualifying age for fares across North Yorkshire on all bus services, a 50% fare for jobseekers and apprentices, a comprehensive bus service website for the county and improved information at bus stops.
A report in a meeting of the council’s executive on Tuesday warns that third party funding contributions would be needed for some elements of the plan.
It states: “The funding ask has had to be developed without knowledge of any funding the council might receive.
“As such, if insufficient funding is received, delivery of projects will need to align within the funding envelope that is received.”