Lessons learnt from North Yorkshire’s on-demand bus service will be key in developing a long-term transport strategy for rural areas as the pilot reaches its planned end next month.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for highways and transport, Cllr Keane Duncan, said the pilot – which comes to an end on June 30 – has provided valuable insights about demand responsive transport in rural areas.
Cllr Keane Duncan said:
We launched the YorBus pilot two years ago to enhance our existing public transport network. It has allowed us to gather valuable information about the costs and benefits of running a digital demand responsive bus service.
While YorBus proved popular with passengers, the service only operates in one part of the county and the cost per journey is significantly higher than the traditional, timetabled bus routes we support.
Without sufficient additional funding being available to expand the service so YorBus can benefit residents across North Yorkshire, and with costs per journey remaining so high despite efforts to improve value for money, the pilot will come to an end as planned next month.
This will allow us to be fair to all residents and focus every penny of our limited resources on supporting bus services across the county at a time of unprecedented pressure.
While continuing to work closely with operators to support at-risk services, we are also currently reviewing a number of initiatives to improve rural transport and asking the public for their views to help shape our future strategy.
YorBus was launched in July 2021 for a one-year trial, but the former North Yorkshire County Council decided to extend it for a further year with the addition of a free, pre-booking feature.
The YorBus pilot costs almost £230,000 to operate annually, using one-off council funding. Latest figures showed YorBus journeys are more than double the cost of a scheduled service.
Last year, the county council was unsuccessful in its bid for £116 million to invest in bus services in the Government’s Bus Back Better scheme. In total, just 34 of 79 areas which applied were successful. Part of this funding was earmarked for the expansion of YorBus across North Yorkshire.
On Monday (May 22), North Yorkshire Council launched the Let’s Talk transport survey, encouraging residents to share their travel habits in a bid to shape a transport strategy for the coming decades. Lessons from the YorBus pilot will help to form the first draft of the new Local Transport Plan.
The two YorBus vehicles will be returned to the council’s fleet for use on other local bus services and drivers redeployed.
Bus routes 136, 138, 138A, 139, 144 and 159 will continue to run and there are community transport operators in the areas where YorBus operates.
Alternative travel options for anybody requiring public transport in the operating area are available at www.northyorks.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-travel/public-transport/bus-timetables