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Monday, 18 April 2016

Bus service with one of the nation's finest views gets into gear

A new bus service covering one of the nation's most remote and picturesque routes has hit the road.

More than a hundred people turned out at Kettlewell village hall for the official launch of the Upper Wharfedale Venturer community bus which follows the course of the River Wharfe in the Yorkshire Dales.

Regular bus users and campaigners Mary Hurst and Murial Raw officially named the bus The Venturer before a blessing from Rev. James Theodosius. The Buckden Singers also provided their own rendition of The Upper Wharfedale Omnibus, based on the Flanders and Swann song.  

The service is a community interest company, created to maintain a vital public transport connection between upland villages from Grassington to Buckden. Community volunteers, including 18 voluntary drivers run the Venturer and North Yorkshire County Council has supplied the bus and a £25,000 annual grant to support the service. 

Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith said: “I would like to pay tribute to all the volunteers and individuals who have made this happen and have put in over 2,000 hours of their time so far. This service will make a real difference to those living and working in the local area and is an excellent example of communities working closely with the county council to provide a service which reflects the needs of people living there.’” 

The Wharfedale Venturer came about after the county council launched a consultation  on proposals last year to reduce the amount spent on subsidising bus services by a further £500,000 as part of its overall savings target – the council must save £166m to the end of the decade which represents a reduction of a third of its total spending power.

The No 72 service between Grassington to Buckden, which had run five times a day by operator Pride of the Dales, faced the prospect of being run no more than three days a week as a demand-led service.  This was because the operator, faced with a reduction in subsidy, concentrated its service between Grassington and Skipton which carried more passengers.

North Yorkshire is one of the few authorities in the country to use its own fleet as a solution to bus subsidy reductions, inviting local communities to put forward volunteer drivers to increase the fleet’s capacity further and to provide demand-responsive and scheduled services in remote areas. 

Councillor Shelagh Marshall said: "This is a very proud day for the Upper Wharfedale Venturer and for its local communities. Keeping local bus services going is vital for communities to stay connected, for people to access services and to prevent isolation. 

“People have worked extremely hard, training drivers and putting together a viable business plan to get the Wharfedale Venturer on the road. This is a very good day indeed  for the people of upper Wharfedale and the county council is proud to support such an exciting and innovative project.”

Councillor John Blackie, local member for the Upper Dales, and chairman of the Upper Wensleydale Community Partnership, has provided help and guidance from his own experiences of running The Little White Bus in Wensleydale and Swaledale.  

He said: “The more community services we can get on board in North Yorkshire, the easier it will be to keep deeply rural, remote communities mobile into the future.  Once local communities get a sense of ownership for such services, like we have with The Little White Bus, like they will with the Wharfedale Venturer, the more likely it is that these services will endure. ” 

The Wharfedale Venturer will run three times a day each way on Monday to Friday during term time starting at 9.40am with a last service at 4.30pm. It will run five times a day on Saturdays and during school holidays starting at 8.35am with a last service  at 4.50pm

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