Harrogate MP 'disappointed' at funding snub for £116m bid to boost bus services

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has added his voice to the widespread disappointment that the area has not been awarded any money from the government's Bus Back Better scheme.

By Jacob Webster
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 9:26 am
North Yorkshire County Council bid for £116 million to transform bus services across the county, but it did not get a penny.
North Yorkshire County Council bid for £116 million to transform bus services across the county, but it did not get a penny.

After the announcement on Monday, Mr Jones said he was particularly concerned about a government suggestion that North Yorkshire County Council's £116 million bid had failed because it did not show “sufficient ambition".

"I am disappointed that we weren’t successful in getting this funding," Mr Jones said.

"We need to look at the bid that was submitted and the Department for Transport’s analysis of that bid to see why they felt that was the case.

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"We might disagree with them or we might find there are things we can learn for next time."

It had been hoped the £116 million would have funded new bus lanes, more affordable fares, real-time passenger information and a simpler ticketing system for services across North Yorkshire.

Despite the disappointment, Mr Jones said he was pleased that a separate bid to bring 39 new zero-emission buses to Harrogate was successful and that a park and ride pilot scheme for the town was still a possibility.

Speaking about the park and ride plans, Mr Jones said: "If people use it, it has the potential to get more traffic off our roads and improve our environment.

“And we shouldn’t forget that we have been very successful in securing cash for public transport investment – particularly buses – in our area.

"We won £7.8 million from the government’s Zero Emissions Bus Regional Areas scheme to create an entirely electric bus fleet for our area last month.

"In 2016 we won over £200,000 to install clean bus technology in our local fleet. We also won cash from the government to start the journey to being a zero emission bus town.

“So we must temper our disappointment with pride in how far we have come and re-double our efforts to bring back axed services on our rail line and getting even more cash into our local bus services.”

Council chiefs want ‘seamless transition’ to new North Yorkshire CouncilThe £7.8 million was awarded in March after a joint bid from North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Bus Company to make the firm's fleet all-electric was successful.

This project will cost almost £20 million in total, with more than £12 million being invested by Transdev - the parent firm of Harrogate Bus Company.

A total of 20 single-decker and 19 double-decker buses will be bought over the next three years, as well as the supporting charging infrastructure.

Alex Hornby, chief executive of Transdev, said this project should be seen as a positive and that he believes passenger numbers will continue to grow in Harrogate - even without more government funding.

He said: “Obviously on behalf of our customers, we are disappointed to see that the proposed improvements for bus travel by North Yorkshire County Council were not approved by the central government.

“However, we remain confident that we will be able to grow demand for bus travel thanks to the funding support from the Department for Transport in a new electric bus fleet in Harrogate which will result in a fully zero-emission network in our town and convert our base in Starbeck to a 100% electric bus depot."

Mr Hornby added: "We will continue working closely with North Yorkshire County Council to see how else we can introduce any of the original Bus Back Better proposals, including a pilot park and ride site at Pannal on our class-leading 36 route.”

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter