Future of bus service up in air

A temporary bus service which helps prevent residents in a housing estate from being isolated will continue to run until April next year – but could be axed after that.

Since the end of March, the 471 has served the Amble Links Estate three times a day, Mondays to Saturdays.

The bus, which is in to operation thanks to an agreement between Northumberland County Council and Travelsure, is effectively an extension of the 472, allowing passengers to travel to and from Alnwick.

It follows Arriva North East’s decision to withdraw the 20/X20 from the area in February – sparking fears that vulnerable residents would be isolated.

The county council has recently said that the service will continue in the short-term, but the authority may not be able to fund it in the future.

In a letter to Amble Town Council, the county council’s transport support manager, Ian Coe, said: “The county council currently pays a subsidy of £36 per day, Monday to Friday, for the service, which equates to £9,360 per year, less any fares revenue received on the bus.

“We have agreed with Travelsure to continue the service, but not necessarily at the same times, until early April 2014.

“We will continue to monitor the number of passengers using the service.

“Our target for continuing the service beyond April 2014 is for the county council’s net subsidy per passenger to be less than £3.

“If the net county council subsidy per passenger by April 2014 is higher than this, I regret that we cannot continue to subsidise the service.

“A financial contribution from Amble Town Council for the financial year starting April 1, 2014, would assist in securing the long-term future of the service, and will be essential if the county council net subsidy per passenger would otherwise exceed the £3 limit.”

He added that the current timetable can be revised in response to passenger demand, provided that the subsidy cost does not increase.