A GROUP of volunteers has banded together to provide a minibus from Arnside to Milnthorpe, coinciding with the planned withdrawal of the 552 service on November 16.

Robert Crook, secretary of the Arnside and Storth Community Transport Group, insisted the once-a-week minibus was “in no way shape or form a replacement for the 552 service” which he said was “essential for so many people”.

“This is literally a sticking plaster on a wider problem,” he added.

Last week it was reported that withdrawal of the 552 Arnside to Kendal bus had been deferred by Stagecoach following discussions with Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron.

The decision to retire the service came as a result of Stagecoach losing two school contracts in September, which meant the route was no longer viable on a commercial basis. The 530, which runs between Kendal and Cartmel, is also to be withdrawn.

Mr Crook said the minibus, provided by Cumbria County Council through its ‘Community Wheels’ programme, had been in the pipeline for around two years, and it was only coincidental that it had come at the same time as withdrawal of the 552.

He added the minibus, which is driven by volunteers, was initially conceived to “provide something extra” and offer a “more personal” service.

On Tuesday, MP Tim Farron led a debate in Parliament an the future of rural bus services in Cumbria.

He said: “The concept of the Northern Powerhouse is great. But from Cumbria’s perspective, it’s not much of a powerhouse, and it’s not very northern.

“If new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly is an investment that will boost the Manchester city region’s economy, then a comprehensive bus service in rural Cumbria is the investment to boost the Cumbrian economy.”

The minister said he would pass Mr Farron’s comments on to the relevant person.

The new minibus departs Arnside on Fridays at 10.25am and returns from Milnthorpe at around 12.40pm. Payment is via smartcard. Call 01228 226427 or visit cumbria.gov.uk/communitywheels for more.