Cuts in bus services threaten wider economy of upper dale

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From: Dr C and Mrs J L Alder, Wharfe View, Grassington, Skipton.

NORTH Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) proposes to make significant reductions in the bus services that it supports. We are writing to express our dismay about the impact that the proposed cuts will have upon Wharfedale.

NYCC may think it is taking a decision about public transport, but in reality, it is deciding about the long-term socio-economic wellbeing of the whole upper dale.

The council’s proposed removal of school buses threatens the viability of the only secondary school in the dale. Without the school, Wharfedale becomes significantly less attractive to families and children further up the dale face long days with much more travelling. A consequence over time is to threaten further the viability of the remaining village schools. A separate question is whether schools in Skipton have the capacity to handle the extra pupils that will come their way.

The buses between Grassington and Skipton are well used, with some runs being full to capacity. Given the small lanes served by this route, the suggestion that a reduced service will possibly be ameliorated by using larger buses will not work. The bulk of the passengers are the elderly, many of whom cannot drive, and young people travelling to and from school or college. The likely outcome of reducing bus frequency is that those passengers that can drive will do so; they won’t be waiting longer for overcrowded buses. Thus passenger numbers will reduce, requiring additional support for the remaining passengers.

This looks like the start of a long-term decline. More car usage is not something NYCC should be encouraging for many reasons. Villagers from up dale will be forced to spend pretty well the entire morning or afternoon in Skipton, no matter how short a time they actually need to spend to conduct their business. The impact on both old and young will be entirely negative in terms of access to the facilities and services that town dwellers take for granted and towards which rural dwellers pay the same council tax. The formal Equality Impact Assessment is one of the weakest such documents we have ever read.

None of these changes will make using the bus a more attractive proposition for visitors. In particular, complete removal of the Ilkley route has been very poorly thought out. The justification given for this change is that many passenger journeys are recreational and therefore of low priority. It shouldn’t need us to point out to the council that a visitor’s recreational travel brings the dale’s local tourism income. These visitors are people travelling out of West Yorkshire to spend money in the dale, so the council may save some money on buses, but at the expense of future lost rates as local tourist-based businesses shut. Not to mention the lost local employment.

Those locals who do use these buses for work or shopping will be completely abandoned, with a whole string of villages between Addingham and Grassington cut off from even limited public transport.

As far as Wharfedale is concerned, NYCC needs to abandon these badly planned proposals and think again.