‘USE it or lose it’ is the message from councillors over an under-threat bus service.
The Arriva 33 service provides an hourly daytime link between the Lancaster Park estate and Morpeth town centre.
The operator was planning to scrap the service next month due to timetable changes, but the shake-up has now been delayed.
However, town councillors have warned that it may only have a stay of execution and if passenger numbers do not pick up, the route could yet disappear.
Coun Nic Best said: “This is run on spare capacity in the timetable from other bus routes. Arriva was looking to change the timetable so that spare capacity would disappear, but now it is not changing the timetable so the number 33 bus will be carrying on for some time.
“The usage is six passengers per trip so it would be nice if it was advertised a bit more. If the numbers don’t increase I wouldn’t be surprised if it disappears in the future.”
Coun David Clark said: “We have put a lot of pressure on Arriva about this. The buses are here anyway, but I do think the service needs to be promoted.”
And Coun Bob Robertson said: “Arriva hasn’t said it not scrapping it, it is deferring the decision.
“I was going to write suggesting to Arriva that it puts something on the two bus stops in the estate about this service. It might be a case of simply putting the message ‘use it or lose it’ out there. The thought that the service might be withdrawn could encourage more use.
“While Arriva is not removing it now, if the numbers using it don’t pick up, it may do so.”
Councillors are also considering contingency plans in case the service is withdrawn.
Ideas include talking to taxi companies and investigating car-share schemes, as well as linking to a new Stobhill dial-a-ride mini-bus service operated by Adapt North East.
The Stobhill service is being supported by the Get Going Fund and Morpeth Town Council to fill the gap from the M3 bus, which was withdrawn in July.
Coun Robertson said: “We have heard that if the 33 service is withdrawn, given that Adapt is in the town already, it may provide an extended service to Lancaster Park, which would also help to sustain the Stobhill service.”
Northumberland county councillor for Morpeth North David Bawn said: “I certainly would support the ‘use it or lose it’ campaign.
“The problem is that the people using the 33 service are not using it enough and the ones that are are pensioners with free travel.
“Unless there is a massive change and people start using this service a lot more, it will be lost.”