Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has urged the Transport Minister to help find ways of saving the under-threat Yorkshire Dales bus services.
He has written to the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin in support of the DalesBus services, asking him to help save the routes when funding ends in the next few months.
Mr Sunak said: “It is vitally important that these deeply rural services are able to find ways to continue to provide for local residents and tourists to our beautiful area.”
The DalesBus network is made up of 14 Sunday and Bank Holiday bus services which operate during the summer months from large towns and cities in Teesside, North and West Yorkshire and Lancashire into the Yorkshire Dales. A reduced service operates in winter.
At immediate risk is the Sunday and Bank Holiday 855 and 856 Wensleydale Flyer services - which run between Gayle, Hawes, Leyburn, Bedale and Northallerton.
The net cost of operating the current DalesBus network is around £80,000 annually. A large proportion of this came from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) but this funding ended in 2015.
Richmondshire District Council, Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, and Leyburn Town Council provided funding in 2015 to enable the Wensleydale Flyer service to continue to until the end of March. But it says it cannot provide any further funding for 2016/17.
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In his letter to the minister, Mr Sunak praises the work of the Dales & Bowland Community Interest company, the group of volunteers which has managed the “excellent local service” in recent years and asks if the Government has any alternative schemes to support it as the LSTF comes to a close.
He also pointed to recent research commissioned by Dales & Bowland which estimates that the economic impact on local shops and other businesses of the bus services being lost could be as high as £250,000 a year.
He added: “I know these services are highly valued and I hope the Minster can help to keep them going for the benefit of local residents and a many visitors to the area.”
The research conducted by Andrew Turnbull, a geography with transport planning degree student at the University of Leeds, also found that 71 per cent of passengers were local residents, dispelling the myth that the Sunday services were only for tourists.