Saga of a village without buses

David Rixon at the bus shelter in Newton On The Moor.
David Rixon at the bus shelter in Newton On The Moor.

A bus service has been withdrawn from a swathe of north Northumberland villages, leaving at least two of them without any access to public transport.

Residents in Newton on the Moor and Swarland knew that the 813 Alwinton to Alnwick bus was due to be axed sometime in September, and had managed to secure funding for a ‘dial-a-ride’ replacement.

But they were horrified to learn that the once-a-week service would make its last run on Thursday, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the network.

Local campaigner David Rixon – a former Alnwick District councillor – said: “Since the beginning of the year, every bus that has come through Newton on the Moor and Swarland has been taken away. When we heard that we’d be losing our last remaining service, the 813, we put in place a dial-a-ride service, to start at the end of September.

“The aim was to have a seamless transition between services, but we then discovered that the 813 made its last run on Thursday. No one knew about this. We’ve been left completely in the lurch, with no public transport for a month.”

Even though it only ran once on a Thursday, the 813 was a vital link for people living in communities along the route, including Rothbury and Longframlington.

Swarland parish council clerk Lisa Hamlin wrote to Northumberland County Council to clarify whether a statutory notice had been placed to warn bus users that the service was to end.

But a reply from the authority’s transport support manager, Ian Coe, stated: “Bus operators have to give the Traffic Commissioner 56 days’ notice of a bus service starting, changing or finishing, with a copy to us.

“We then endeavour to inform local communities as soon as possible of the detail of these changes, but there is no statutory requirement to do so, nor do we have to put notices in the press at a given notice period.

“I concede that in this case the withdrawal is at very short notice. The only alternative would be for us to fund some form of temporary service, but I do not believe this is a good use of public funds.”

Mr Rixon said: “This is completely unsatisfactory.

“We’ve been left in the lurch with no public transport.”

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We are very sorry that the 813 bus service has been withdrawn and we recognise that it was at short notice.

“We had been trying to find ways of keeping the bus service going but we haven’t been to find anyone to maintain the service at a price that represents reasonable value for money. Unfortunately it means there will be a gap with no bus service before the dial- a-ride service starts.”