End of the road as bus routes are axed

BUS services are to be axed next week as the county council looks to save money.

Six routes which are subsidised by Northumberland County Council have been scrapped because of a lack of passengers, with the first finishing next Thursday.

The 406 from Shilbottle to Morpeth, which calls at Newton on the Moor, Swarland, Longframlington and Longhorsley on Mondays and Thursdays, will run for the last time on October 27.

A further four early morning routes – the weekday 6.26am, 505, which operates between Belford, Berwick and Alnwick; 6.21am, 501, between Beadnell and Belford on weekdays; 8.37am, 505, between Shilbottle and Alnwick on Saturdays and 6.55am and 7.23am, 420, between Alnwick and Alnmouth on weekdays – will all stop on October 29.

Another service, the 813 which services communities in Coquetdale will also be stopped next April.

The bus picks up passengers in Thropton, Rothbury, Longframlington, Swarland, Newton on the Moor and Alnwick, on Tuesdays and also serves Holystone, Harbottle, Alwinton and Netherton on Thursdays.

After April the Tuesday 813 route will be stopped but the Thursday service will be re-tendered.

The 813 and the 406 were being run as trial routes, but their take-up has been described as ‘disappointing’ and does not reach the level required for financial support.

Alnwick county councillor Gordon Castle said: “I think we all very much regret the inconvenience that may be experienced by those few passengers who are affected by the withdrawal of these services, but I hope the public will understand that we have to target public subsidies with great care. We only support bus services that would not run without the subsidy; services that are commercially viable are not subsidised by taxpayers money.”

Ian Coe, transport support manager at Northumberland County Council said the decision had been made with ‘great reluctance’.

“The hard fact of the matter is that these bus services are just not being used enough and are losing in the region of £54,000 a year and this is not something we can sustain,” he said. “While we accept the need to provide transport for rural and isolated communities, this has to be balanced against cost and the numbers of people using the service.

“The council is facing unprecedented financial challenges and unfortunately difficult decisions have to be made.”