Dear Reader: Harrogate buses getting worse + I get it wrong with Sir Gary

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:44 pm
Hop aboard: The famous Harrogate no 36 bus to Leeds and Ripon.

Such is the fortunate position for anyone living in the Harrogate district, the difference between good and very good actually matters.

So I am not seeking to imply we are living in any sort of “transport desert” when I say the train and bus services here are not quite what they were only a few short years ago.

Despite owning a car, I’m a regular bus user and big fan of the fabled, leather-seated, red and black No 36.

Compared to many places in the rest of the UK we still have much to be grateful for, especially in the context of what the Campaign for Better Transport has calculated is an £182 million cut in bus subsidies by councils across England and Wales since 2010.

But if you think North Yorkshire bus services haven’t been hit substantially, you’d been wrong according to the same figures.

As a man who used to trust the No 1 buses which flow along Knaresborough Road wholeheartedly, I have to say, albeit with a heavy heart, that, from my experiences of the last year or so, my faith has waned.

In fact, so frustrated was I at one late train and several late buses one night before Christmas during peak socialising season that I opted to walk all the way by foot from Forest Lane to Parliament Street to meet up with some friends in town.

I sympathise with a bus firm trying to make a profit, a train company trying to do a good job, I really do, but I sympathise with passengers more.

For the Harrogate district, 2019 is set to be the year of the bicycle.

Two major cycling race are scheduled to take place here - one a relative newcomer born in Yorkshire, the other regarded as the Olympics of cycling since it was first rolled out in 1921.

I am a confirmed cycle-sceptic or, at least, I was until I saw the excitement generated all-round when the Tour de France first came to town in 2014.

The phenomenal success of the Tour de Yorkshire since it was launched in 2015 means I no longer trust my own judgement on the subject.

Whether it was wise to mention this on the phone to Sir Gary Verity himself when I had the good luck to interview him last Friday is another matter.

Without the confidence and vision of the far-sighted chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, neither of the two major sporting events coming to Harrogate this year would even be happening and the likes of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas would not be possible visitors.

But I digress.

Such is the pace of journalism these days in the era of social media, it’s not just my note-taking which has evolved it’s own ridiculously fast shorthand system.

It’s also the way I think.

Towards the end of the phone call I decided I ought to thank my interviewee for his time.

What should I call him? Sir Gary Verity? Perhaps Sir Gary?

“It’s been good talking to you Sir Garrity,” I proferred.