Bus service war erupts in Wetherby

wet  Glemm Purves in front of one of the Harrogate buses.  (110706M1)
wet Glemm Purves in front of one of the Harrogate buses. (110706M1)

A WAR has broken out between bus companies in Wetherby with as many as six buses an hour turning up on one route.

Services operated by Trandsdev Harrogate and District, which also own Harrogate bus station, used to run a half-hourly service between Wetherby and Harrogate until April this year.

But when competitor Connexions started to run a cheaper express service a few minutes ahead of them, Transdev responded by changing their own timetable. A return adult ticket on the Wetherby to Harrogate route for Transdev costs £4.50, with Connexions offering the cheaper price of £4.00.

Since then regular tit-for-tat timetable changes between the two companies have seen as many as three buses arrive within six minutes.

Transport chiefs and bus users fear the situation is becoming unsustainable.

Now the managing director of Connexions, Craig Temple, has spoken of his concern.

He said: “I feel Transdev are basically just using their size and power just to run us off the road here. It’s a real shame as we do not want to see conflict between our drivers and we certainly don’t want to see bickering.”

Mr Temple, who is also a bus driver with the company, and has 23 employees, said that there has been conflict between the operators for ‘sometime’ and vowed to keep the Connexions bus timetable the same.

But marketing director of Transdev, Nigel Eggleton said: “In one form or another we have been running the service between Wetherby and Harrogate since just after the First World War. In April of this year another operator launched a service running five minutes in front of ours. This is a well known tactic in the bus industry. So, in order to protect our own service, our passengers and our staff, we registered a service running five minutes in front of that one.

“We don’t have a problem with fair competition and in many walks of life competition is a good thing. But in a commercial world we have a right and a responsibility to protect our services when someone tries to harm our business.”

The Competition Commission, which regulates, said it was aware of the situation and that it was a ‘concern’. They confirmed they were looking into the dispute as part of a wider national investigation into local bus services.

But Bus passengers meanwhile have spoken of their delight at the ongoing war, saying that the bus service in Wetherby was now ‘brilliant.’

Bus user Fred Elliott, who travels regularly on the service said that he was glad to get on any bus and had no preference for which service he used. He told the Wetherby News: “It’s all a bit silly really. We were all very aware of the situation but I think it’s brilliant for us as passengers. We have a very regualr service now which is great. I’m not complaining. ”

Wetherby resident Glemm Purves, 64, a disabled bus user who travels to Harrogate from Wetherby three to four times a week, told the Wetherby News he prefers the bus service provided by Connexions: “I prefer to use the bus service by Connexions as they are cheaper and offer a friendlier service on the bus. The drivers are always really nice to me, often letting passengers off between stops. It is really good that we are having more of a regular bus service in Wetherby though so overall I am quite happy with this.”

l WHAT do you think about the new Harrogate bus services? Is competition healthy or should only one company be given certain routes? Email us at wetherby.news@ypn.co.uk or write to Wetherby News, 9 Westgate, Wetherby, LS22 6LL