Blow for bus users as services hit by cuts

Whitby bus changes .Picture Richard Ponter
Whitby bus changes .Picture Richard Ponter

Whitby is set to lose a number of its bus routes after the county council approved a £2 million reduction in subsidies.

North Yorkshire County Council has announced this will mean that from April the number 96 Whitby Circular and 97 Whitby to Whitby Abbey services will be withdrawn.

The number 27 Whitby to Northallerton via Esk Valley, which runs each Wednesday, will also be lost.

“These cuts have been imposed on North Yorkshire County Council – not just on the bus subisidies, but across the whole range of serviceswhich the council provides,” said council leader John Weighell.

“We have been obliged to take decisions such as this to avoid setting a deficit budget, but at the same time we are determined to do everything possible to minimise the impact on individuals.”

There will also be changes to the timetable of the X93 Middlesbrough to Scarborough route which passes through Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay.

Additionally, the number 98 Whitby-West Cliff circular route will no longer run at 9am, 4pm and 5pm.

County councillor Cerl Les, NYCC’s deputy leader, said: “We are all very conscious of the potential that these reductions have for people in very rural areas, in terms of isolation and loneliness.

“These issues are very much in our minds and we will do all we can to mitigate against them.”

While Whitby county councillor Joe Plant agreed the loss of funding could causes issues for those living in rural areas, he suggested those in the town centre may not notice a difference.

For journeys of less than 1.5km, the council argued that residents would be able to access the services they need through alternative methods of transport, such as walking, cycling or taxi journeys.

Cllr Plant added that for those who previously relied on the bus service to get to the hospital, there are “plenty of alternatives”.

Among these are local groups such as the Dial-a-Ride service which could replace the number 96 Whitby Hospital circular route.

Cllr Plant explained the reduction in subsidies is down to the county council attempting to discover what is “best value” for the tax payer.

“We are in a position where we have to find savings and if the buses aren’t well used then there should be other alternatives,” he said.

“At the end of the day the county council might be stopping the subsidy on some services but that doesn’t mean Arriva have to stop them altogether.

“They are a private company with profits so is it right that the taxpayers pay for the parts of the service that aren’t making money but the company is profiting from other routes?

“Is that value for money for the tax payer?”

For school journeys there will be a maximum subsidy of £1.50 per passenger journey and a minimum fare of £1.

In addition to the withdrawal of subsidies specified in the report compiled by the Director of Business and Environmental Services, the council’s Executive agreed it would lobby central Government about concessionary fare issues.

The council is investigating alternative funding from parish councils where local buses are not provided commercially and to conduct an in-depth review of local bus services to establish how they could be put on a more sustainable footing.