Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
5:58 AM 23rd May 2023

No More Sticking Plasters For North Yorkshire’s Buses

The Government last week (17.05.23) announced an extension of the bus fare cap - but many routes still remain uncovered. Paul Afshar says the latest announcement represents a sticking plaster on a much larger problem.

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay
Earlier this month, for the first time, I caught the number 64 bus from Sherburn to Selby. There was nothing remarkable about the day, the journey, or the bus, apart from a woman I met at the stop.

In her 50s and born in the village, she worked in Selby. I asked whether we’d missed the bus; “definitely not,” she responded. She’d already been waiting there for 30 minutes. It was due in 5.

According to her the 64, which ran every two hours, was sometimes late, sometimes early, but rarely on time. To make sure she could get to work, she arrived 30 minutes before it was due every day. The alternative was to be two hours late, and lose a day’s pay.

Bus services in Selby and North Yorkshire are vital arteries connecting communities - people to their work and families to each other. So why are they in an ongoing state of peril?

Earlier this year it was revealed eight bus services across the area were under threat. Many still don’t have funding to secure their future.

The Government last week announced an overdue extension of the £2 bus fare cap which would have ended at the end of next month.

For many, it marks a temporary reprieve from worrying about paying to go to work during a cost of living crisis. It was, however, a missed opportunity.

We need a bigger, better bus network across North Yorkshire. Not just sticking plasters which expire in a few months.

That the fare cap is not mandatory for all service providers seems like an act of political myopia. That public funds are going to pay for vital privately run services speaks volumes.

In their 2022 report, the Campaign for Better Transport revealed some home truths about bus funding in North Yorkshire.

Of the initial £1.08bn “transformation funding” earmarked by the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), North Yorkshire missed out.

The Department for Transport, at the time, indicated it selected successful Local Transport Authorities based on the ambition of their improvement plans. It’s a cautionary tale that we in North Yorkshire need to do better.

At the top of the in-tray for a new North Yorkshire Mayor needs to be better buses. Cajoling a coterie of reticent bus executives, with limited public funding won’t be easy. But it doesn’t need to be hard either. We need three big pushes for our buses:

One: hop on opportunities for funding from the new Bus Centre of Excellence - it will be a stepping stone to unlocking more funding for our region.

Two: get a more realistic funding settlement for North Yorkshire’s buses. Just over £1bn was allocated for bus services but the total funding requested was close to £10bn, including that missed out on by North Yorkshire.

Three: Press for mandatory participation in the bus fare cap. The long list of bus routes which, according to the Government, are still not included in the £2 cap makes sobering reading.

For the woman I met at the bus stop, and thousands like her across our county, let’s get better buses to make sure no community is left behind.