War erupts over bus service

A WAR has broken out between battling bus companies running services between Harrogate and Wetherby, with as many as six buses an hour turning up on the route.

Transdev Harrogate and District, which also owns Harrogate bus station, ran a half-hourly service between Wetherby and Harrogate until April this year.

But when competitor Connexions started to run a cheaper express service a few minutes ahead of it, Transdev responded by changing its own timetable.

Since then, regular tit-for-tat timetable changes between the two companies have seen as many as three buses arrive within six minutes.

Transport chiefs and bus users fear the situation is becoming untenable.

Now the managing director of Connexions, Craig Temple, has spoken of his concern.

He said: “I feel Transdev are basically just using their size and power just to run us off the road here. It’s a real shame as we do not want to see conflict between our drivers and we certainly don’t want to see bickering.”

Mr Temple, who is also a bus driver with the company, and has 23 employees, said there has been conflict between the operators for “some time” and vowed to keep the Connexions bus timetable the same.

But marketing director of Transdev, Nigel Eggleton, said: “In one form or another we have been running the service between Wetherby and Harrogate since just after the First World War.

“In April of this year another operator launched a service running five minutes in front of ours.

“This is a well known tactic in the bus industry. So, in order to protect our own service, our passengers and our staff, we registered a service running five minutes in front of that one.

“We don’t have a problem with fair competition and in many walks of life competition is a good thing. But in a commercial world we have a right and a responsibility to protect our services when someone tries to harm our business.”

The Competition Commission, which regulates, said it was aware of the situation and that it was a “concern”. It confirmed it was looking into the dispute as part of a wider national investigation into local bus services.

But bus passengers have spoken of their delight at the ongoing war, saying the bus service between Harrogate and Wetherby was now “brilliant”.

Bus user Fred Elliott, who regularly travels on the service, said he was glad to get on any bus and had no preference for which service he used.

He told the Advertiser: “It’s all a bit silly really. We were all very aware of the situation but I think it’s brilliant for us as passengers. We have a very regular service now, which is great. I’m not complaining. ”

Wetherby resident Glemm Purves, 64, a disabled bus user who travels to Harrogate from Wetherby three to four times a week, said he prefers the bus service provided by Connexions. “They are cheaper and offer a friendlier service on the bus,” he said.

A return adult ticket on the Wetherby to Harrogate route for Transdev costs £4.50, with Connexions offering the cheaper price of £4.00.