Anger at bus service cuts

Vantage story - The Little Red Bus ' Knaresborough
Vantage story - The Little Red Bus ' Knaresborough

Public transport in rural Nidderdale has taken a blow with news the original Little Red Bus route from upper Nidderdale to Pateley Bridge will be cut.

The bus’s “home to school” contract to bring school children from farms across the upper Dale into Nidderdale High School will come to an end at Easter this year meaning the service which also carried other people into Pateley Bridge will be forced to close.

The Little Red Bus’s Chief Executive Lyn Costello said she is disappointed to see the service, which has run for more than 10 years, end.

“This was the original contract that set up the Little Red Bus, bringing people down the dale to Ripon and Harrogate. Without it, people up the dale cannot get community transport.”

The school children have been transferred onto buses from another provider which had spare seats, but transport across the Dales is in difficulties, she added. “Our services have been decimated over the last two years.

“I feel so sad, I feel we are letting people down.”

The county council has defended their decision to end the Little Red Bus’s route, saying they have to review contracts to ensure they get value for money for their services.

A council statement said: “North Yorkshire County Council has a number of transport contracts with Little Red Bus worth around £500,000 per annum.

“As part of our normal process to keep our transport services efficient we review contracts when they come to the end of their term to make sure they continue to be value for money.”

“Because there has been a reduction in the number of pupils using this service we looked to reducing costs by putting the service out to tender and have secured a more cost-efficient service

from another provider.

“There is an existing bus service between Pateley Bridge and Harrogate which local people can use,” it added.

The Little Red Bus’s number 23 service, which runs from Burnt Yates to Harrogate, will see its services cut from Monday, Wednesday and Friday to Wednesdays only from March 25 onwards, and the X59 service from Harrogate along the A59 to Skipton will disappear altogether from March 10.

County Coun Helen Flynn, chairman of the Dales Connect group, said: “We are not happy about bus services being cut, but we completley understand the situation the county council is in with respect to the massive reduction in funding from the Government. It’s difficult to see howthey can keep services going at this level.” Dales Connect are working with North Yorkshire County Council to find a solution to the X59 route.

The X59 is a commercial route, a county council spokesman said, used mainly for leisure travel and is being cut because of low passenger numbers, while the Little Red Bus’s no 23 service had very little usage on Mondays and Fridays.

“While we are doing everything we can to support rural communities, at a time of austerity we have to look carefully at every service and how it is used,” the spokesman said.