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Business leaders angry after bus "bombshell"

Business leaders angry after bus "bombshell"

Published at 4:56pm 7th July 2017. (Updated at 5:12pm 7th July 2017)

There is growing anger over Harrogate Bus Company's proposed changes to the 24 route.

The operator is planning to scrap the last service of the day, at 6.30pm from Harrogate and 7.30pm from Pateley Bridge, because of low passenger numbers.

Sunday buses during the winter are also set to stop.

Business leaders say they have only just found out that the 7am and 7.40am departures from Pateley Bridge will also be combined into one departure, leaving at 7.20am.

It emerged at a meeting called by Nidderdale Chamber of Trade, which has described the revelation as a "bombshell".

Chairman Keith Tordoff said: "Nobody in the room was aware of this and surely this shows how Transdev have handled this, which is very poorly in terms of PR and communication, and it seems the only way you could have found out is if you had looked for it somewhere on the website, which I don't think people generally would do.

"This is going to have a massive impact on the whole of Nidderdale. It affects some people who won't be able to get to work on time, so do they lose their job?

"It certainly needs everybody concerned to come up with a solution. We've got to look after people in society who don't have cars, who are vulnerable, who need the support that a bus service offers, particularly in a rural community."

Campaign group Friends of DalesBus says there has been an "appalling" lack of consulation on the future of the 24.

Vice Chairman Colin Speakman added: "We feel if it's properly marketed, with everybody on board, with the right kind of publicity, this service shouldn't cost an awful lot of money to run, even in the winter months.

"It's vital for the rural economy of Nidderdale."

Harrogate Bus Company, which is owned by Transdev, has responded to the concerns raised.

General Manager Keith Roebuck: "As a background, the service changes have not been a knee-jerk reaction, but in response to a steady decline in patronage over recent years, throughout which we have maintained the service in its current form.

"Unfortunately, this has now become unsustainable and evidence has suggested that the earliest and latest journeys are very lightly used on a regular basis. As a result, two early journeys are being combined into one and the 1830 journey from Harrogate is being withdrawn. We also feel that winter Sunday journeys cannot be sustained.

"I do accept that a few of our customers will face difficulty, but we believe that these changes will help future overall viability. It should be noted that this is a commercial service with no external financial support.

"We are fully committed to promoting the benefits of the service and improving service standards and hopefully customer numbers. Specific local authority funding is currently allowing a vehicle upgrade and additional promotion.

"I do understand that there has been criticism relating to the advertising of the changes and I have discussed this with marketing colleagues. Additional information will be aimed at increasing customer awareness.

"From the meeting yesterday, further dialogue has been agreed, with all parties wishing to minimise the impact on those using the service."

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