Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Harrogate Friends of the Earth (BUS 24)


North Yorkshire is the largest county in England and one of the most rural and sparsely populated areas, covering 3,340 sq miles, 40% of which is designated as National Park. Almost 33% of residents live away from the main centres of population, many in the Dales and Moors regions which are both National Parks. The County's population is 599,000.

The Office for National Statistics reports that the cost of living in rural areas is £2,600 pa more per household than the cost in urban areas. Of this differential nearly £1,000 pa is for higher transport costs. Fuel for vehicles costs more in rural areas, bus fares per mile are higher and distances to vital services are much greater.

By 2015 at least 30% of the population of North Yorks will be over retirement age. Many older people cannot afford to run a car and are reliant on public transport. Oil price rises will increase dependence on public transport. Rural areas also suffer from higher unemployment and lower wages. Fewer people claim benefits to which they are entitled. At least 25% of farmers in the area are living below the poverty line. The rural economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and tourism. Hotel and restaurant workers, shop workers and those in food manufacturing earn low wages and rely on public transport to get to and from work.

A good Transport infrastructure is vital to the economy of the region and to the health and well-being of its residents. For many workers on low wages public transport is their only option. The Beeching Axe fell very heavily on North Yorks rail network, so buses are the only form of public transport in a large part of the region.

NY has the highest CO2 emissions (38%) from transport of any rural county. (The national average is 21%). A good and improving public transport system is needed to reduce overall traffic volumes.

Nationally, 99% of the population has access to primary schools, work, shops and services within 15 minutes. In North Yorkshire the figure is 82-93%.

Nationally, 77-89% of the population has access to GPs, Hospital, and secondary schools within 45 minutes. In North Yorkshire the figure is 62-70%.

It should be the entitlement of every resident to be enabled to travel for employment, education, services, shopping, surgeries, hospitals and social events.


(i)  NYCC's proposed bus cuts will cause disproportionate damage to access for people, including wage earners, dependent on public and community transport.

(ii)  Proposed cuts to services have been administered by a simplistic focus on evening and weekend buses, rather than on an evidential basis which reflects demand and level of subsidy per journey. There are daytime services - untouched by these proposed cuts - which are being subsidised at a rate of £93 per passenger (* see attached table).

(iii)  Cuts to services on Sundays and Bank Holidays will affect tourism, a key source of employment and revenue. Tourists are more likely to bring cars into National Parks and AONBs with consequent increases in CO2 emissions and congestion.

(iv)  NYCC describes the service between Whitby and Sleights as underused; yet trhee evening buses carried at least eight people per service and only one carried only one passenger. The service is the only means for Sleights locals to access work opportunities in Whitby, working in restaurants, bars and other tourist-focused businesses and for carers to reach relatives. Passengers are willing to pay more (even an extra £3-5 per journey) for the bus. But they cannot afford, on low wage rates, to pay the £10+ per taxi journey.

(v)  NYCC officers do not seem able to grasp that many employees do not work 9-5 from Mon-Fri. In the Selby area many people are employed in the power stations and work shifts. They need buses early and late in the day and at weekends.

(vi)  NYCC has chosen to take a blunt axe rather than pruning shears to services. They are disregarding the needs of workers, carers, families etc who rely on return journeys at weekends and evenings.

(vii)  NYCC is proposing to front-load the cuts of £600,000 into Year 1 rather than spread them evenly over four years.

(viii)  NYCC appears to be consolidating their own Integrated Passenger Transport Unit and its core staff by withdrawing contracts from Community providers (notably Little Red Bus) even though the County cannot replicate what LRB provides and what residents value so highly. There is a huge gulf in understanding between NYCC and its poorer residents as to the meaning of Integrated Transport Services. The county seems to be choosing to compete unfairly with community providers, withdrawing funds that should really belong with local communities.

(ix)  Community transport has been built up with conspicuous success to meet the needs of rural residents. It takes children to schools, patients to GPs and clinics, the elderly to day services and people to work, all in the same pattern of journeys. The existence of Little Red Bus is now being put at serious risk by NYCC, apparently as part of a deliberate policy. During schooltime, shoppers, tourists, those living in isolation, carers etc can call on the CT service. Community services should be enhanced not destroyed.

(x)  In NYCC's IPTU discussions with District Councils and PCT, Community Transport providers were not included in the discussions.

(xi)  There is little evidence that NYCC is thinking through the consequences of its day to day decisions on bus subsidies or is open to persuasion that it might be pursuing unreasonable policies.

(xi)  NYCC justifies its every decision to cut bus services as being imposed by central government. It seems to be neglecting its duty to manage the bus cuts with maximum professional skill to minimise impact on the disadvantaged. There has been no comparison of subsidies provided to Mon-Fri services during hours of 9-5, even though NYCC's own data shows that some enjoy much higher subsidies than for evening and weekend services.

(xii)  Consultation with the public proved resoundingly hostile to the bus cuts and there have been waves of alarm (letters to press and councillors) about the threat to community transport and subsidised public transport, but this level of resistance has been misrepresented by officers as compliance and support.

(xiii)  Strong arguments have been registered by local groups, local councillors, parish councils and other interest groups, all seeking a more rational, evidentially based approach to cutting services. These have been dismissed with only a token response.


It is our contention that the tactics on bus cuts are seriously flawed largely because the underlying strategy, expressed in the LTP3, is steering us in the wrong direction.

(a)  The failure of the County Council to fulfil its responsibilities to those communities and individuals who depend on public and community transport, and who need it to be better integrated, is compounded by its woefully inadequate LTP3 (2011-16). This lacks serious analysis of the increasing need for integrated systems, of the scope to reduce traffic volumes, and of NYCC's obligation to cut CO2 emissions. It is a missed opportunity to re-balance the vision for future transport in North Yorkshire in favour of the disadvantaged. It fails to address the biggest environmental issue for us all - the impact of climate change

(b)  LTP3 is a charter for car owners. It understates the wider needs of its elderly, young, work-seeking and disadvantaged communities. We (FoE Harrogate) have presented a coherent counter to LTP3 both on paper and in committee. This has been ignored with contempt by officers.

(c)  LTP lacks internal consistency and rigour. It states, inter alia, that:

—  there is 9% unemployment in rural areas, but it is not clear how much transport issues impact on this
(Why can we not find out how much?);

—  everything that NYCC does will contribute towards sustainable communities
(increased isolation by removing community transport will not);

—  NYCC will seek to influence access to services
(little evidence of this);

—  NYCC will encourage integration of different modes of transport
(little evidence that NYCC really grasps what integration means at user level);

—  public transport and CT will be better integrated to give a seamless service (This cannot be achieved unless Community Transport providers are treated as valued partners rather than competitors to be ostracised); and

—  the role of taxis is often undervalued
(but this option is beyond the means of those who are having their buses cut back).

(d)  LTP3 lacks specific strategies and targets to achieve and measure progress.

(e)  North Yorkshire's public and community transport provision will be significantly worse than the level of financial cuts necessitates, largely as a result of defensive and unresponsive leadership within the County Council. Their refusal to acknowledge the outcomes of consultation and public opposition has been wholly unreasonable and unreasoned.

(f)  NYCC consultation process with council tax payers on the LTP3 showed the five highest priorities from respondents as:

—  support for the local economy;

—  improve access;

—  improve public transport;

—  encourage alternatives to car use; and

—  improve access to remote areas.

The response from NYCC to this has been tokenistic.

(1)  The LTP overlooks the huge potential to encourage tourists to leave their cars and use public transport. Bus and rail services lack co-ordination, connectivity, joint ticketing and publicity

(2)  There is no co-ordination between transport services for education, social services, and non-urgent patient transport within the PCT area. This leads to a huge amount of duplication, unnecessary extra costs of providing transport and increased road congestion

(3)  NYCC spends £4 million on taxis for pupils attending special schools and £18 million on transporting pupils to mainstream schools. Many of the journeys are for less than the statutory two miles (primary) and three miles (secondary) pupils. A small cut in this transport budget would more than recoup the savings that NYCC will achieve with the bus cuts (£600,000). Any balance could help improve bus services and community transport elsewhere.

(NYCC Social Services spend £3.8 million on taxis and N Yorkshsire and York Health Trust spends £4 million on non-urgent patient transport)
Better use of bus services and CT would bring huge savings to these budgets which could then be invested in better transport provision for all. This in turn would help reduce levels of unemployment, increase access for tourists, who spend money in the local economy and protect the needs of the disadvantaged. It could vastly improve access for residents. There should also be a reduction in CO2 emissions.
An Integrated Transport Service cannot be achieved whilst each local department is defending its own funding and traditional ways of working.


NYCC needs to commission more effective customer research. Whilst Passenger Focus may give some feedback from customers about bus services, research is needed at bus stops and bus stations asking travellers for their views on local transport. Questionnaires should be available on board all services and on line throughout the year.

www.transportdirect.co.uk should be clearly mentioned on all information about transport as being a useful tool to plan journeys countrywide.

Workplaces should establish how staff travel to work and should be required to provide information on public transport. Likewise the tourist industry needs to clearly indicate how places of interest and accommodation are accessible by public transport (as in National Trust Handbook) and how services interconnect.


Our own researches indicate that people with free passes are generally very willing to pay - perhaps £1 locally or £3 per day towards the cost of their journeys on the buses. They recognise that a free bus pass without bus services that meet their needs is worthless. Some bus operators issue a ticket but it doesn't state a destination, as the passenger is not asked to give a destination. Therefore, there is a lack of information about length of journeys, or which areas are most frequently travelled. Also, in areas popular with tourists, who have come from other areas outwith N Yorks, it is the local taxpayers who pick up the cost of the journey rather than the tourists own local council. In N Yorks, which has high tourist numbers, this means that N Yorks council tax payers have an unfair burden to pay for. Yet local bus users travelling outside peak times, but paying full fare, often cannot have a seat, due to high numbers of free bus pass users.


Even after the current round of cuts, NYCC has a large budget at its disposal for transport services. To achieve best value it needs to act upon a clear set of principles which genuinely represent the whole of its community and which secure access for the young, the old, the isolated, the low paid and the disadvantaged. It has received a huge amount of constructive comment about how it can improve its transport services despite the need for budget cuts.

There is little evidence that NYCC is prepared to listen or to adopt a different mindset towards its transport policies and administration. By 2010, the county had grown one of the best (possibly unique) community transport systems in the UK- the LRB.The major, and immediate, decision is whether NYCC will build on that success or allow it to melt away. The aim should be to improve public and community transport so that people will view it with confidence and use it more. With better information available through an Oyster-card type system and better IT scheduling, as developed by LRB, it could turn retreat into a huge success.

North Yorkshire could still develop Public and Community Transport services second to none in the UK and save money.


ONS report on cost of living in rural areas, quoted from article in National Press 28 December 2010.

NYCC LTP3 produced in November 2010.

Costs of school transport services and non urgent patient transport and transport for social services obtained under FOI act.

Contracts Comprising Services DescriptionAnnual Cost Approx Pax/Yr:Cost per Pax
1.374,700 521,1932.64
72,73.74Skipton - Grassington - Buckden - Ilkley Combination 364,698111,4563.27
North Craven TaxibusNorth Craven Taxibus Mon-Fri 21,8235,2154.18
580Skipton - Gargrave - Settle - Giggleswick (Mon - Fri) 25,51823,9241.07
581Feizor - Austwick C E Primary/Ingleton-Settle-Horton In Ribblesdale 108,02720,4825.27
210Skipton Malham9,701 1,9454.99
B1Horton In Ribblesdale - Settle - Slaidburn 69,30013,6295.08
136 138 139Ripon Roweller 74,19822,5943.28
138Ripon - Laverton - Ripon 9,880
36Reeth - Leyburn (Friday Only) 4,6844759.86
156,157Wensleydale Services (Mon-Sat) 208,053121,7671.71
156, 157Northallerton - Hawes (Sundays) 22,1068,8362.50
X59Hawes - Darlington (Mon - Fri) 49,1009,0395.43
159Richmond - Ripon (Mon - Sat) 187,009113,3801.65
Post BusNorthallerton - Hawes Wensleydale Post Bus (Mon - Fri) 6,5949,0040.73
30, 113, 520R, 521RRichmond/Hawes/Garsdale Area Combination 129,70920,4156.35
158Woodale - Middleham - Leyburn (Fri Only) 4,9465608.83
144Masham - Bedale21,848
73Richmond - Bedale Northallerton (Mon - Fri) 4,2693,4461.24
73Richmond - Bedale Northallerton (Mon-Fri) 30,4514,9156.20
24Harrogate - Pateley Bridge (Winter Sundays) 7,9102,3273.40
66ASkipton - Grassington (Sundays) 14,88627,7840.54
386,838 147,6712.62
X59Skipton - Harrogate (Mon - Sat) 92,87154,4501.71
142, 143, 779H, 778HRipon - York - Boroughbridge 213,11732,4986.56
131, 132, 134Ripon Town Service 41,88360,3070.69
23, 623HHarrogate - Ripley, Markington - Bishop Thornton - Ripley - Harrogate 38,96741693.67

January 2011

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 11 August 2011