A campaign has been launched to fight proposed cuts to bus services in Ripon as the county council aims to slash £1.1m from its budget.
Under proposals unveiled by North Yorkshire County Council as part of a consultation, the local authority would axe its subsidy for the circular bus services 131 (which serves the Lark Lane area), and 132 and 134 (which serve the Gallows Hill and Lead Lane areas).
But after being contacted by concerned pensioners in Ripon, five of the city’s councillors – Couns Peter Horton, Andrew Williams, Charlie Powell, Sid Hawke and Pauline McHardy – have joined forces to organise a petition to try and save the service.
Coun Williams said: “I know from those bus users who have contacted me how valuable this service is.
“It provides a lifeline of independence to many local pensioners and families who do not have transport of their own, it enables them to shop locally and withdrawing the service can only damage trade in Ripon.
“I know many pensioners struggle to carry heavy bags of shopping and therefore pop into town more than once to make it more manageable.
“It also enables them to meet friends in town for a coffee and North Yorkshire County Council need to realise the real impact upon the lives of many people in Ripon.”
The petition has been circulated to a number of shops and on Saturday the councillors will be collecting signatures along the routes.
Under the county council’s proposals, the scheduled services would be replaced with a “dial-a-ride” service, where passengers can ring and register to use the service and then book and pay each time they use it.
Coun Powell said:“I encourage as many people as possible to sign the petition. Even if you’re personally fortunate enough not to have to rely upon the bus service please assist those many pensioners and parents who are.”
North Yorkshire County Council is committed to saving £92m in the four financial years ending March 31, 2015, and following funding announcements by Government has warned it will need to find a further estimated £66m in savings between 2015 and 2019.
The council spends £4.4m a year subsidising the 20 per cent of bus journeys in the county which are not commerically viable for private companies to operate unsupported.
Members of the county council backed the public consultation on the bus service cuts as part of a proposal to cut the amount spent on bus subsidies by 25 per cent.
County Coun Chris Metcalfe, executive member for passenger transport, said: “We know that bus services are a lifeline for many people – not everyone has access to a car.”
“However, we have huge financial pressures and we have to reduce our expenditure across the board. We have produced some detailed information which identifies the potential impact of of this proposal, and hope that people will make constructive comments as part of the consultation process.”
Other proposals for bus changes among the raft of cost-cutting measures include reducing the 136 (Ripon to Melmerby, Barker Business Park) service to Mondays to Fridays only, and reducing the 137 (Ripon-Laverton) bus to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only.
There are also proposals for the 138 service: to reduce the days of operation of the 9am Mickley to Ripon service to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only, and reduce the days of operation of the 6.55am from Masham and 6.05pm from Ripon services to Monday to Friday only.
The 139 (Ripon-Fountains Abbey and surrounding villages) service would also be reduced to operating on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only, while the 7.26am Green Hammerton to Ripon service on the 142/3 route would be withdrawn.
Among the school services, the proposals are to introduce a minimum fare of £1 per journey on the 56A (Harrogate-Bishop Monkton-Ripon schools), 57B (Harrogate-Boroughbridge-Roecliffe) 723H (Rainton-Dishforth-Skelton on Ure-Ripon), and 807H (Pickhill-Kirklington-Bedale High School) services.
And services would be provided only for pupils entitled to home-to-school transport on the routes 720H (Burrill-Ripon), 721H(Bedale-Ripon), 736H (Sharow-Ripon-Nidderdale High School), 739H (Grewelthorpe-Nidderdale High School), 757H (Burton Leonard-King James’s School, Knaresborough), 778H (Ripon-Marton le Moor-Boroughbridge High School), 847H (Ripon-Thirsk School) and 877H (Bedale-Romanby-Northallerton).
Coun Metcalfe said:“We will take careful account of all the comments we receive before making a final decision as to what action we will take.”
– The consultation runs until November 25. Details are available online at www.northyorks.gov.uk or by calling the county council’s customer service centre on 0845 8 72 73 74.