Alston bus service to beaxed after almost 40 years
Sir, We would like to take this opportunity to thank the many passengers who have used our Friday service between Alston and Garrigill since the 1970s.
This service will run for the last time on Friday, 6th June, 2008. Sadly the declining number of passengers has taken its toll on this particular service and the withdrawal of subsidy from Cumbria County Council means that it is no longer financially viable.
We would also like to thank the many passengers who have used our Nenthead to Alston to Newcastle service, the 888, since 1930. Although the subsidy on this service will be withdrawn as from 2nd June, we are going to continue operating it until 3rd July, after which our commercial service from Newcastle to Penrith and Keswick via Alston will commence.
This will at least give some continuity of service to the people of Alston Moor and give them an alternative destination to Carlisle until 28th September.
Sadly, the policy makers at Cumbria County Council are of the opinion that we on Alston Moor should be content with a bus service to Carlisle even though we have very strong links to the North East.
To dispel some of the myths that have been banded around since the initial meeting with an officer of the county council we would like to clarify the existing status of the service.
It was declared that the service was expensive to subsidise on a cost per passenger basis and that on the one day of survey there was little or no demand for it. We can clarify that the average fare box revenue for the service amounts to approximately one quarter of the cost of providing it.
We know that this does not pay for the service but, in our opinion, for a rurally populated area such as Alston Moor (approximately 2,500 people) we do think it shows sufficient demand for maintaining this service to some degree.
Most importantly a fact which has been recently highlighted confirms that 50 per cent. of the cost of the subsidy was paid for by Northumberland County Council direct to Cumbria County Council. In effect Cumbria County Council was itself being subsidised to provide this service and therefore the cost to it was significantly less than the figures that were being portrayed as being payable by Cumbria County Council.
We know that budgets have to be met, but we believe that this is a very short term view when talk from central and local government is to encourage public transport.
For the people of Alston Moor, Hexham provides a significant number of services, i.e. dental and health. In addition to this the opening of a new Marks & Spencer store and talk of redevelopment in Hexham town centre will provide a new opportunity for employment.
For students and the younger generation, access to Newcastle-upon-Tyne provides further opportunities to attend the universities and colleges of further education. Indeed we were carrying students on this service.
To remove the service at this stage will do nothing to encourage people to live on Alston Moor. There is already significant local concern as to the decline within Alston itself with regard to shops and businesses.
There is a public meeting scheduled for Friday, 6th June, at 7-30pm with David Maclean MP which I hope will be attended by councillors and officers of both Cumbria and Northumberland county councils. We intend to run a free bus from Alston to Nenthead at 7pm in order that as many passengers and potential passengers will be able to attend.
We would like to thank Sid Wilson, a resident of Nenthead, for effectively bringing about this meeting. Without his and other individuals’ efforts this opportunity may never have occurred. Let’s hope that common sense will prevail and that Cumbria County Council will not turn its back on the opportunity to retain funding from a neighbouring county council. Yours etc,
J. G. and C. I. WRIGHT
(Directors, Wright Bros (Coaches) Limited)