The last bus: Dales folk who can’t even get to Bradford and back on the same day

The Little White Bus makes its way through Upper Wensleydale
The Little White Bus makes its way through Upper Wensleydale

AS little as three years ago Carleton near Skipton enjoyed buses running to town into the early evening and even at weekends.

Now the service stops just after three in the afternoon. Residents without a car have to rely on friends or neighbours or face a two-mile walk along a narrow ill-lit footpath by a busy road.

After the last bus on Friday there is nothing until Monday morning.

The buses are now run by NYCC after Pennine Motors closed in 2014 saying losses incurred through free travel passes and more competition meant it could not continue. The company with its distinctive orange and black buses had run services in Craven for nearly 90 years.

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Steve Richardson, from Carleton’s Save Our Bus campaign which protested against cuts, said: “The most telling fact is that it is now not possible to get to an outpatient appointment at Bradford Royal Infirmary and back in the same day by public transport from Carleton.”

He went on: “I believe the political decision to remove subsidy from rural public transport is one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of communities in and around the Dales.”

Shockingly in today’s world of cuts, Carleton is actually lucky.

Elsewhere in rural North Yorkshire residents are increasingly having to take on running services themselves and using volunteers.

In April facing cuts to their local bus service local residents in Buckden and Grassington leapt into action - and two farmers, a technology consultant, a retired managing director and former policeman learnt everything they could about running a bus company.

The volunteers at the Upper Wharfedale Community Bus Company were awarded the contract to run the service in December, ensuring no one in their communities would be isolated.

Peter Vetch, one of the directors, said it had been hard work to set up but so far it had been going well.

He said: “Myself and a group of like minded people in the village felt that maintaining a bus service was vital.”

Also vital, according to Coun John Blackie, is getting the Government to relax the rules so that passengers using a concessionary bus pass could choose to make a donation.

He secured a £25,000 subsidy in May 2011 to set up Little White Bus, a not-for-profit, community-run bus service which operates out of the Upper Wensleydale Community Office in Hawes.

It now sees 55,000 passenger journeys a year. But it only survives as it is staffed almost entirely by volunteers - especially as 60 per cent of its passengers have a free pass.

He said: “The only way we manage to maintain services in deepest rural North Yorkshire is by developing an approach where we rely very heavily on volunteers. Eventually there won’t be any buses to use your pass on. There’s no question. If we are going to stick with the system as it is now, the Government must relax its rules. Accepting donations will make a really big difference.

“It would make services like those provided by the community-based Little White Bus even more sustainable for the future, and it would persuade commercial operators whose subsidies or concessionary fare payments from local authorities have been / are being cut back or cut out to continue to operate these services knowing there was a source of additional income from the voluntary donations from non-fare paying concessionary pass passengers.”

Bob Rackley, commercial manager at EYMS Hull, said: “We’ve discussed it with passengers - they have always said they would rather make a payment than have no services. It was brought in very much off the hoof, without a lot of thought about what the unintended consequences might be.”