Fewer buses and fares to rise as transport funding slashed

BUS services are set to be axed and fares raised up across North Yorkshire as the county council said it would slash subsidies for public transport by 10 per cent as part of a bid to claw back £60m.

North Yorkshire County Council will be cutting part of its £6.5m public transport budget, under plans approved on Wednesday to slash its £930m budget by £37m in the next financial year and £69m by 2015.

A spokeswoman denied that the £600,000 reduction in subsidies would mean bus routes would necessarily be axed

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However transport campaigners last night said the county council was trying to cover-up the inevitable.

The main routes thought to be affected are Sunday and evening services – an estimated 40 per cent of which are used by working people – across Scarborough, Whitby and Selby.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the county council, Geoff Webber, said: “Cutting public transport subsidies means routes are going to be withdrawn – anything else is just nonsense.

“We have real worries for what this will mean.

“There are some rural communities that will be almost completely unsustainable without a bus route.

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“There is a great deal of deprivation in pockets of rural communities and my concern is for them and how they will manage.

“We have to lower the budget and there will have to be cuts.

“But wherever these happen, the community in North Yorkshire is going to feel it.”

The Campaign for Better Transport’s bus campaigner, Sophie Allain, said: “We understand councils are under pressure to make savings, but bus cuts are a false economy once you take into consideration the knock-on effects of reduced mobility, and will lead to more money being spent elsewhere, for example in welfare and social care.

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“With 40 per cent of evening bus journeys work-related, cutting these services will hit workers, jobseekers and the economy.

North Yorkshire County Council recognises these cuts will result in fewer services and higher fares and we urge it to consult local people to reduce the negative impact on the community as much as possible.”

Around a quarter of North Yorkshire’s bus network, which carries more than four million passengers every year, is funded by the county council.

A spokeswoman says following the bus subsidy cuts, council officers will work with operators, particularly Arriva Yorkshire and Arriva North East, to develop “innovative ways to retain a minimal service”.

She admitted fare increases were part of this.

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The assistant director of integrated passenger transport at the county council, Richard Owens, said: “We acknowledge that this move will result in services being taken off, we are trying to be realistic.

“There may be opportunities for bus companies to look at running services just one or two days a week instead of removing them altogether.

“From consultation we have done, people say they would be prepared to pay more rather than lose a service.

“We do not underestimate the impact that this will have on people.

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“We are aware that people really need bus services and we have tried to take actions to minimise this impact.”

As revealed in the Yorkshire Post yesterday, as many as 500 jobs are due to be lost from the county council’s 6,000-strong workforce as part of the budget cuts.

Funding for adult social care will be reduced by £7m, children’s services slashed by £8m, while the highway department’s budget will be cut by £6m.

The majority of the cuts will be enforced over the first two years.

The county council is having to draw on up to £5m from its reserves to counter cuts in Government funding.