County makes plans for transport

THE county council will look to try to maintain bus services as well as boost the number of train services in north Northumberland over the next five years.

At Monday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Executive, members will be asked to approve a consultation on the draft Public Transport Strategy for 2011 to 2016.

However the strategy makes clear that it is a ‘living document’.

“The ideas and proposals set out in it should be regarded as a point of departure for all stakeholders to give their views. We want the document to be shaped by those who read it,” it states.

With regards to bus services, the strategy notes that the ‘current trend among major bus operators is to concentrate resources on routes which carry the most passengers, which tend to be faster, direct routes between major places’.

This leads to the withdrawal of less well-used services, which mostly affects rural communities.

While the council has a limited budget for supporting bus services, it wants to ensure this is used to best effect and to try to maintain service levels.

Some funding for capital spending such as improvements to bus stops are paid for through the Local Transport Plan, but the council will seek funding from both bus operators and the Government.

It sees the need to improve current services to the coast, which are ‘inadequate and unattractive’.

“There are several bus routes serving the area but with different operators, different routes, uncoordinated times and lack of ticket interavailability meaning that the bus is failing to fulfil its potential,” states the report.

It suggests a minimum of an hourly service along the Alnwick – Alnmouth – Craster – Seahouses – Bamburgh route between Easter and October.

Elsewhere the strategy highlights the ‘apparent gap’ in the network between Alnwick and Rothbury, and a business case would be prepared if funding became available.

In the section on rail travel, the report sets out the desired levels of service.

The service from Chathill would be increased from four trains daily to eight, while from Acklington it would be increased from three a day to less than two-hourly.

While the CrossCountry service from Alnmouth is currently less than hourly, hourly would be adequate with an increase in the East Coast service fto less than hourly and the Northern service from four trains daily to eight.

Alnmouth station will see the installation of access lifts from the Department for Transport Access for All fund. There will also be upgraded waiting facilities, electronic information screens and cycle parking, to be financed as part of the Network Rail National Station Improvement programme.

There could be a new station with the long-discussed scheme for Belford given a possible opening date of summer 2013.