Bus companies hope review will help improve Harrogate's services

Bus services in Harrogate are set to be investigated by the council's scrutiny body.
Bus services in Harrogate are set to be investigated by the council's scrutiny body.

The men behind Harrogate's two major bus companies have spoken of the challenges of operating a rural transport company, ahead of a wide-ranging review into concerns over a decline in bus services in the area.

Both Alex Hornby, the CEO of Transdev Blazefield, and Connexions Buses boss Craig Temple said they hoped the review undertaken by Harrogate Borough Council's scrutiny committee would aid in improving services in the area.

However Mr Temple said for the review to be helpful, external funds would be needed.

"The only way I can see any benefit from it is if they've got any funding," he told the local democracy reporting service.

Harrogate bus services to be scrutinised over fears communities losing out
He said that bus businesses, which are legally obliged to accept concession-card carrying passengers, relied heavily on rebates provided by the county council.

Decreases from the council on the level of rebate offered - particularly in Harrogate where a large amount of passengers utilize concessions - has put major pressure on his business, he said.

Mr Temple said despite other challenges, such as Connexions recently spending £75k on installing contactless payment points on its fleet and the town having little work traffic, cancelling a route was always the last resort for the business.

"We're not in the business of leaving people without a service, we're a service industry, we only cancel a route if it's absolutely forced," he said.

Transdev boss Mr Hornby said they were keen to work with the local authority to potentially reinstate routes, acknowledging that running rural networks "can be a challenge".

"Following five years of investment in extra services, new low emission buses, better ticketing, people training and quality information, we very much welcome a review into local bus services that we trust will build on this success," he said.

"Whilst we now have a strong track record of growth, we are not complacent. Running rural buses can be a challenge but we remain creative and ambitious to see how we can remodel this type of operation, through non-public subsidy and sponsorship and running electric buses rather than diesel, such as what we do on the 24 through Nidderdale."

The bus review will look to clarify exactly how many and which services have been withdrawn by bus companies in the area, as well as establishing how many local communities have been affected.

The work will also look to establish what the borough council can do directly and where any recommendations would be referred to, given that the majority of public transport matters relating to buses fall under the umbrella of the county council.

While commercial companies will be surveyed, the council will also look at any county-council or Government operated services in the region as well.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter