A COMMERCIAL solution has been found which will see two under threat rural bus services saved.
Transport companies are to continue operating the routes despite the withdrawl of subsidies from Cumbria County Council.
The daytime element - 7am to 7pm from Monday to Saturday - of the 563 service, which covers Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Penrith and service 561, which covers Appleby to Kendal, will both continue to operate on a commercial basis. The two operators currently running the services confirmed they will continue to run buses without the council’s subsidy.
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Grand Prix, of Brough, operates the 563 service and previously received a £32,586 subsidy from the county council to run the day service. But given the number of passengers - 59,613, equating to a subsidy of 55 pence per passenger per journey - the company can still see a commercial case for continuing to run the daytime service.
The evening 563 service, which is considerably less well used and more expensive to run - a £47,146 subsidy for 7,805 passenger journeys a year equates to a subsidy of £6.04 per passenger per journey - is not seen by the operator as a commercially viable option and therefore its future is less certain. It will remain as part of the council’s ongoing review to explore alternative solutions for supported services before formally withdrawing funding.
The 561 service is operated by Robinsons of Appleby and runs a return trip from Appleby to Kendal via Orton, Tebay and Grayrigg on a Wednesday. It previously received a £1,455 subsidy from the council to transport 2,995 passengers a year at an average cost of 48p per passenger, but will continue to run without any subsidy.
A spokesperson for Grand Prix said: “We look forward to continuing to operate the 563 daytime service. It is our aim to maintain the level of service that our passengers have been used to, whilst seeking out any improvements that could be introduced.
Judith Walker of Robinsons Coaches said: “Robinsons are pleased to be able to continue running the 561 Appleby to Kendal service for all our existing and new customers. We hope the service will go from strength to strength with the support of the local community and visitors to the area.”
Coun Keith Little, the county council's cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “This is the first confirmation that we can give on any individual services following the budget decision to withdraw subsidies and it's fantastic news that these companies have committed to supporting the local community by running these two services themselves.
“This is a good example of reducing the pressures on the public purse while allowing bus services to be run commercially and sustainably in Cumbria.”
“I hope this change will see the services become more viable in the future. The best way for the public to support and protect their local bus services is to actually use them.”
“The county council is currently in discussions with all operators of existing supported services to see whether there is a similar appetite to run other services commercially and is exploring the best local community solutions before any subsidies are withdrawn.”
Around 95% of all bus journeys in Cumbria are run commercially without any subsidy from the county council.