Call for “stay of execution” on MOOR’S bus service cuts

Date: Friday 30th May 2008

A CALL has gone out from Alston Moor for a “stay of execution” on bus service cuts. This would give county council transport chiefs time for a rethink, says one of the area’s local councillors.

The battle to save the Monday-Friday 888 bus service operated by Wright Brothers from Nenthead to Newcastle via Hexham is not over, says parish councillor Dick Phillips in the latest issue of the Alston Moor Newsletter.

Mr. Phillips, who leads the newsletter production team, is also chairman of the Nenthead ward meeting, and says the points he is making are those made by residents at ward meetings.

“The supposedly last buses are running to Newcastle and to many of us they seem the last buses to anywhere,” he says. “Nowhere else in Cumbria has had its services stripped so ruthlessly, but we are still fighting our case.”

Residents say that Cumbria County Council wants them to travel to Carlisle, while they want to go to Hexham and Newcastle. Mr. Phillips writes: “Within the memory of our present county councillors, 35 years ago there was a county boundary south of Penrith.

“Can we imagine the old Westmorland County Council ruling that villagers in Temple Sowerby, Clifton, Yanwath and Pooley Bridge should cut their connections with neighbouring Penrith, just telling them they should change their ways and look to Kendal instead?

“This seems too absurd to contemplate, yet it is an exact parallel with what is now being expected of Alston Moor.”

Mr. Phillips says Alston has a long history of looking across the border, mainly to Hexham, for services not provided on the Moor, like dentists, opticians, banks and solicitors, and of looking to Newcastle rather than Carlisle for a city-sized centre. The local papers included the Hexham weekly, water supply and sewerage services were from Northumbria, the diocese was Newcastle, many Alston children had been educated at Haydon Bridge and the Alston Samuel King’s School was in partnership with three other schools across the Northumberland border.

“We are integrated with the Hexham-based community in a way which Cumbria county councillors seem unable to grasp,” he says.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Financial support needed to keep the Newcastle service was only for halfway to Hexham. Northumberland County Council paid the other half to Hexham and beyond which Wright Bros. operated without subsidy.

“Our campaign has to be for a stay of execution while the original criteria, as applied to near-border areas, are re-examined. Nowhere else in Cumbria is as cut off as we are from our immediate service centre,” Mr. Phillips continued.

He concludes: “The county would like to regard the issue as now decided and closed. It is not closed as long as David Maclean, our MP, is fighting for us.”

Mr. Maclean, MP for Penrith and the Border, has asked for a public meeting to be hosted by Alston Moor Parish Council at Nenthead village hall at7-30pm on Friday, mainly about the buses issue.