Subsidised bus service review gets on the road

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A REVIEW of subsidised bus services is under way across Northumberland.

The county council has begun 12 weeks of consultation on current non-commercial services where the subsidy approaches or exceeds £5 per passenger.

Services being considered include the Snaith 835/805, which runs from Otterburn to Morpeth and Tritlington on Wednesdays, as well as the Snaith 79 Newcastle Airport, Ponteland and Morpeth service which runs on the same day.

Also under review is NEED’s 691 Upper Coquetdale to Morpeth dial-a-ride service on Mondays and a number of other rural routes in the north and west of the county.

The council is planning to freeze its £2.46million annual budget for such services until March 2015, but as costs increase it will not be able to fund as many routes in the future.

Now local communities, parish councils, members and bus operators are being asked to work in partnership with the unitary authority to promote routes and encourage greater use of bus services, as well as identify those that are most vital.

Suggestions include publicising services, changing routes or days of operation and making minor timing adjustments to attract more passengers or reduce costs. The council is also seeking support from parishes in applying for funding from the National Sustainable Community Transport Initiative or other bodies.

Head of Sustainable Transport Mike Scott said: “This situation is a challenge. Although we agreed to invest the same amount of money in subsidising bus services, this amount won’t go as far as it used to.

“We must review those routes which are not working efficiently to see if, in partnership, we can do something to improve this. We must also make sure that we are concentrating on those routes which are vital to local communities.

“We would welcome the views of any interested parties on how we can address this challenge.”

Responses to the consultation should be submitted by Sunday, July 15.

For further information or the full list of services under review visit www.northumberland.gov.uk/transport