Research has highlighted the importance of bus services to the local economy and residents of the Dales.
Surveys were undertaken by Andrew Turnbull, a Geography with Transport Planning degree student at the University of Leeds, in conjunction with the Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company in November 2015 on the Sunday 856 Wensleydale Flyer bus from Northallerton to Hawes via Bedale and Leyburn. This service was reprieved for the winter with new funding from Richmondshire District Council, Leyburn Town Council and Hawes & High Abbotside Parish Council but like several services across the Dales it will be withdrawn in April unless new funding sources are found.
Other bus services expected to be withdrawn in April include Monday to Saturday buses between Ilkley and Grassington via Bolton Abbey, and Saturday buses on routes X75 between Harrogate and Skipton and 155 between Bedale and Leyburn. Other routes will face reductions in frequency and some will be reliant upon volunteer minibus drivers following budget cuts by North Yorkshire County Council.
The survey discovered that 71% of passengers were local residents dispelling the myth that Sunday services are only for tourists, with 40% of these coming from single person households of which 55% do not own a car. Even in multi-person households which own a car, 58% of the bus passengers surveyed did not have access to this car; many of these are younger people who cannot rely on “mum’s taxi” for their entire life! 26% of respondents were aged under 24.
The average expenditure in local shops and businesses was £17.29 per passenger, far exceeding the subsidy of the bus journey which is around £2 per journey. 38% of journeys made were for employment, shopping, medical appointments and visiting friends and relatives. 93% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the continuation of this bus service is important with comments including “this excellent service fits in with my hours of work” and “it’s a lifeline”. This survey forms part of a wider research project that will be reported in March - the initial survey report can be downloaded here (PDF file).
Using the results of this survey it has been estimated that after removing the 23% of passengers who said that they would have travelled by car if the bus was not running, the passengers on this service would contribute over £46,000 to the local economy over the course of the year.
The plight of rural bus services was investigated by Tom Heap in the BBC 1 Countryfile television programme on January 10th with case studies across the Dales including the DalesBus services managed by the Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company which faces a £45,000 shortfall in 2016-17. This shortfall is exacerbated by the low reimbursement levels from North Yorkshire County Council for carrying concessionary pass holders whilst some DalesBus services were deemed by the council in 2015 to be outside of the English National Concessionary Pass Scheme causing confusion for both bus drivers and passengers.