North Yorkshire County Council is currently (until Monday 7th February) consulting on an Enhanced Partnership Plan which aims to deliver a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) for the county, subject to the allocation of funding from central government.
Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company are strongly supportive of the vision and objectives stated in the plan to create a high quality coordinated and integrated bus network, which is urgently needed in North Yorkshire for numerous economic, social and environmental reasons. A significant modal shift away from private cars to the use of public transport and active travel is vital to help tackle the climate emergency.
We are however concerned that the proposed actions within the Enhanced Partnership Approach will not deliver this vision and objectives, and in particular offer little for the more rural districts of the county, including the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which are our particular areas of interest. NYCC now spends £1.5m supporting bus services, down from around £6m ten years ago – a drop of 75% which has caused a serious drop in bus services and usage, particularly in more rural areas. Despite the stated aims of the National Bus Strategy to reverse recent declines in bus services, restore evening and Sunday services, the plan does not include any proposals or funding to restore any of the lost bus services, nor to change the policy of not supporting services on evenings and Sundays on an ongoing basis (despite the fact that such services were identified as a high priority by residents in the engagement exercise referred to in section 9 of the plan).
North Yorkshire's Bus Service Improvement Plan highlights the fact that the area is one of England’s most popular tourist destinations, with two national parks, presents an area of opportunity for development of the bus network. However there are no proposals to improve the limited service offering in the national parks. Most Sunday and Bank Holiday buses in each area are dependent on short-term fundraising by the Moorsbus and Dales & Bowland CICs, which is not an appropriate or sustainable basis for these important services. The BSIP will do nothing to help maintain and develop these services, except perhaps for some marketing activity. This will be of little benefit if there isn’t a good network of buses available with sufficient capacity for people to use. The climate emergency means that modal shift to public transport is becoming increasingly urgent in all areas, including the Dales, but it appears that North Yorkshire’s plans will not help facilitate this.
We are also concerned that the overall plan is lacking in ambition, with a targeted increase in passenger journeys to just 13.2m journeys in 2025, which is significantly less than the over 14m journeys recorded only a few years ago in 2016-17, a long way short of the objective in the York and North Yorkshire LEP Carbon Abatement Pathway to increase bus km by 30% by 2027, as a step towards increasing bus use by 50-100% by 2038.
You can provide your views on the plan via North Yorkshire County Council's consultation website until Monday 7th February.