Rothbury, Third Age U3A

Spirit bus in Rothbury.
Spirit bus in Rothbury.

Buses need support

Spiritbuses director Steve Hurst gave an impassioned talk as guest speaker at the Coquetdale University of the Third Age (U3A) AGM and open meeting on April 18, at the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury.

He spoke about the service Spiritbuses has provided for the Upper Coquetdale community since it was formed in 2013.

Spiritbuses runs two services – Rothbury to Alnwick and Rothbury Coquetdale Circular. Passenger numbers are increasing, and so far 50,000 travellers have been carried.

More than ever, however, Spiritbuses needs community support as council funding has been withdrawn. Also, the cost of bus passes is not fully reimbursed by the county council. To date, the cost of the bus pass scheme to Spiritbuses has been £2,000, but it has only received £700-£800 in reimbursements.

Local authority funding and ticket sales do not cover the cost of bus maintenance, fuel and garaging etc. If the funding situation does not improve then the service will stop in September.

It has been necessary to seek to fund-raise, such as a book sale, and to seek donations from the public. Some bus pass passengers make a contribution to their fares and/or a donation. Other passengers and non-passengers also make donations. While very welcome, this support is not sufficient to compensate for the lack of subsidy.

While passenger numbers do not cover costs, the service is vital for those that use Spiritbuses. It facilitates travel between shops and business hubs, and is crucial for young and old.

Spiritbuses is exploring how it can work with organisations supporting mentally ill and disabled people. It would like to run a service to local hospitals, but it depends on funding and bus availability.

As a gesture of support and thanks, Coquetdale U3A made a donation to Spiritbuses.

Also at the meeting there was a notice about dowsing classes. AnThea Wilbie-Chalk is offering to run introductory sessions. For more information contact AnThea 01669 82234.